Best Buy Goes 100% Flextime

If anything could persuade me to move back to Minnesota, this might be it. Business Week reports in Smashing the Clock
that the nation's leading electronics retailer, Best Buy, is expanding a successful experiment to give ALL employees at its corporate office 100 percent flexibility and the company plans to roll out the clock-free world to its retail stores. So far, productivity of employees living the new work environment has risen about 35 percent.

The Minneapolis-based company calls the move ROWE, for "results-only work environment." The policy -- the brainchild of two HR people "seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours," reports Business Week. "Workers pulling into the company's amenity-packed headquarters at 2 p.m. aren't considered late. Nor are those pulling out at 2 p.m. seen as leaving early. There are no schedules. No mandatory meetings. No impression-management hustles. Work is no longer a place where you go, but something you do. It's O.K. to take conference calls while you hunt, collaborate from your lakeside cabin, or log on after dinner so you can spend the afternoon with your kid."

What's great here is that flexibility is offered to everyone, not just parents or top management or highest-grossing sales reps. This is fair -- and a smart way to avoid grumbling by child-free employees who resent "picking up the slack" for parents who leave early citing kid responsibilities. Everyone can do as they please, no questions asked, and they're judged by results, not facetime.

"Best Buy did not invent the post-geographic office," Business Week goes on to say. "Tech companies have been going bedouin for several years. At IBM, 40 percent of the workforce has no official office; at AT&T, a third of managers are untethered. Sun Microsystems Inc. calculates that it has saved $400 million over six years in real estate costs by allowing nearly half of all employees to work anywhere they want. And this trend seems to have legs. A recent Boston Consulting Group study found that 85 percent of executives expect a big rise in the number of unleashed workers over the next five years. In fact, at many companies the most innovative new product may be the structure of the workplace itself."

This trend is good news for parents -- and for everyone -- seeking to integrate work and life on our own terms.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  December 11, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Flexibility
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time to go shopping at Best Buy!

Posted by: experienced mom | December 11, 2006 7:28 AM

I can't wait to see how this plays out! I was just talking with a friend about how, to some degree, technology has done as much for women's advancement as feminism has. It's really technology that has made all the new flextime, work at home soluations possible -- enabling women to stay in the workforce in some capacity when they might have considered dropping out before. I think we'll all be watching the Best Buy experiement to see what it holds for the rest of us . .

Posted by: Armchair Mom | December 11, 2006 8:33 AM

I can't wait to see how this plays out! I was just talking with a friend about how, to some degree, technology has done as much for women's advancement as feminism has. It's really technology that has made all the new flextime, work at home soluations possible -- enabling women to stay in the workforce in some capacity when they might have considered dropping out before. I think we'll all be watching the Best Buy experiement to see what it holds for the rest of us . .

Posted by: Armchair Mom | December 11, 2006 8:33 AM

I can't wait to see how this plays out! I was just talking with a friend about how, to some degree, technology has done as much for women's advancement as feminism has. It's really technology that has made all the new flextime, work at home soluations possible -- enabling women to stay in the workforce in some capacity when they might have considered dropping out before. I think we'll all be watching the Best Buy experiement to see what it holds for the rest of us . .

Posted by: Armchair Mom | December 11, 2006 8:33 AM

Yet another reason to go to Best Buy rather than Circuit City (unless you are a cute 19 year old).

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | December 11, 2006 8:42 AM

I think Best Buy has it right. Where I work, I have been pushing for years that it is what you get done and not the amount of time it takes. But still those that work every weekend to get the same amount of work done that I can do during regular working hours are praised for their dedication to the job. When everyone else is talking about their weekend, it gets a little boring to hear about how much time "they" spent in the office grinding away while we are spending time living life.

Posted by: workerbee | December 11, 2006 8:50 AM

"What's great here is that flexibility is offered to everyone, not just parents or top management or highest-grossing sales reps. This is fair -- and a smart way to avoid grumbling by child-free employees who resent "picking up the slack" for parents who leave early citing kid responsibilities. Everyone can do as they please, no questions asked, and they're judged by results, not facetime."

While the sentiments expressed here are correct, that companies should not discriminate on the basis of familial status when deciding who does and does not get flex-time, your bias against childless employees yet again comes through loud and clear.

Posted by: dc | December 11, 2006 8:50 AM

I can see this backfiring as upper management starts giving out impossible deadlines and then when the employee can't get it done (even if working "regular" hours), the employee gets blamed.

Or how about missing deadlines (reasonable ones) since the employee can't get needed information from others since they are working at 11pm or 5 am?

Posted by: No name | December 11, 2006 8:52 AM

Hey Armchair Mom, In your haste to hit the submit button, you forgot that the "post-geographic" workplace benefits everyone, not just women. There are a lot of fathers out here trying to balance their responsibilities, too. These are men who do much more at home then their fathers ever did, and yet are often appreciated less. Your comment illustrates what I feel is one of the great failures of feminism. In their zeal to right past wrongs, some feminists have duplicated them, leaving behind a trail of broken men and neglected children. The failure of men and women to strive for balance and see each other's point of view has screwed us all up, really.

As for the topic, I hope this is the start of something big. Happy workers are productive workers, and people that don't feel torn between work and home will be happier. It's better to be interrupted working at home by your own child than to be interrupted at work by childish adults.

Sorry for the cynical start -- Monday blues, I guess.

Posted by: Briana's Dad | December 11, 2006 8:58 AM

My nephew works on the floor at a Best Buy in Seattle. I just wonder how this is going to work for everyone. Leslie's post says that they are going to include retail, but how can they do that? Don't get me wrong, I hope this will include everyone, but I find it hard to believe that this will include the people on the floor who are selling customers DVDs.

By the way, my nephew loves Best Buy and says it is a great place to work.

Posted by: scarry | December 11, 2006 8:58 AM

So no name, your right. If the managers are jerks, this isn't going to work. If they are decent people, it just might. After reading so many of these blog entries, and hearing so many bad workplace stories, may be just once there can be a great place to work.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 9:01 AM

Be careful of what you ask for! You may not like the results.

What this also opens up is the unlimited work week. Having set hours does provide some protection against being worked to death. Scheduled hours (which can allow for some individual circumstance) provides a clear line between work and home. At some point the office can be left behind. With this Best Buy plan, I can easily see that work morphs and oozes into all hours of the day and night. Who want to be obligated to take business calls when hunting?

Posted by: Fred | December 11, 2006 9:05 AM

Finally! A company that is truly moving into the 21st C. There isn't any reason that most companies can't work like this. Although hubby works a ton of hours, we are lucky in that he does have some flexibility - there are many times that while we are in the car on one of our long drives to see the family, he is on the phone on some conference call - he can also write stuff while we are moving along. The wireless hotspots that are popping up in some rest areas are also very useful. As soon as the 'old guard' has retired, I think there will be a lot more working from home, which he can do occasionally now but in reality, he should be able to do 4 out of 5 days a week.
Some foresight and planning is necessary if you really want to work the very 'off' hours, but there isn't any reason why it can't work. People need to be responsible about it, but really, I hope they make it work. The more positive publicity it gets like this article, the better.

Posted by: WAMC | December 11, 2006 9:06 AM

Fred -

The point is that you CAN be hunting instead of having to stay in the office for that 15 minute meeting.

Posted by: WAMC | December 11, 2006 9:10 AM

As someone who has seen lots of outsourcing.... this type of benefit is a double-edged sword. It's what enables folks in India, Russia, Philippines, etc. to do your job for 1/3 the wage. The more untethered your job is, the more likely it is to be outsourced. I have seen it happen and the trend is growing fast.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 11, 2006 9:13 AM

Actually, I am working from home right now. I am certainly not arguing for fixed hours that mandate attendance. But my point is that work and home will become a blur. I do want some separation in my life between work and home.

Posted by: Fred | December 11, 2006 9:16 AM

This is my dream come true! Come to work after rush hour, leave before it begins again, get the work done, no matter how long it takes--short or long. Just get the job done.

Posted by: Working Mom of 2 | December 11, 2006 9:16 AM

Fred,

I agree. When I was at AT&T the new technology was getting to the point that I was expected to be available on vacations as I could take a laptop along. I used to plan wilderness vacations just to avoid having to work on vacation. Unfortunately with cellphones and smaller laptops it's going to get harder and harder to avoid being surrounded by work all the time.

Posted by: dai | December 11, 2006 9:18 AM

Is it just me, or would this be a TERRIBLE idea in retail stores? If customers have the expectation that a Best Buy is open, say, 8 AM - 10 PM, and all employees on the 2-10 shift sell their quota (or whatever) by 8 pm, the customer who comes in at 9 will be in for a nasty surprise.

If BB is closed by 9 despite posted hours being till 10, I'm taking my business to Circuit City.

If anyone can explain to me how this could work and /not/ lose BB customer base, I'd appreciate it.

I am, however, all in favor of ROWE in white-collar corporate environments, where availability to customers during certain timeframes is not as important.

Posted by: BonnySwan | December 11, 2006 9:24 AM

I agree with Fred. I can imagine this leading to the neurotic checking of email at all hours of the day and night, getting calls from the boss at 8pm, wondering where in the world Jerry is because I need his input for my presentation.

I also really wonder how they measure productivity. Highly skeptical of the 35 percent increase figure.

It might be great in the sense that I won't feel guitly missing Bobby's tball game, but I can see it simply shifting stress elsewhere.

Posted by: Ethyl | December 11, 2006 9:24 AM

This kind of approach is not entirely new, as our company has had the same scheme in place for over three years. What it does require is that managment be 100% behind the idea of treating salaried employees as people paid to do a job, not just put in hours. It also requires management to monitor results, and make sure that employees are not "working themselves to death" to meet deadlines. I regularly make the rounds at 5pm and tell people to go home, go to the gym, or whatever, just get out. If people are consistently missing deadlines, it can be either a symptom of a problem employee (not likely), insufficient resources (more likely) or too much work (probable). In any case, management needs to determine what is wrong and fix it so the employee can be successful. This idea can be extended to unlimitted vacation, which we also have. Let people take off time whenever they need it. If you hire good people, treat them well, and pay them fairly they will be very unlikely to abuse it. This can be made to work, and we have more than three years of proof. Good to see that other companies are catching on.

Posted by: Earl | December 11, 2006 9:27 AM

I like this idea and generally am not that cynical about it. However, while I could easily do the actual "work" of my job from home or on a less traditional schedule, my responsibilities most often require a fair amount of collaboration, contact, discussion, etc. This would be difficult to do if I were not at work at the same time as my colleagues and clients...so, I can see this being easier for some folks than others.

Posted by: MNPoster | December 11, 2006 9:29 AM

just remember, ROWE came out of Birkenstocks, shorts, and pierced-lip white-collar work environments :)

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 9:29 AM

Many of you have responded like the business world is full of bad managers. That all they want is to work you to death and if they could, would work you 24 hours a day. Granted my work place has if flaws, but nothing compared to the horrors that show up in this blog. To those that are asked to be available 24 hours a day and be available on vacation, is the job really worth it?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 9:34 AM

Workerbee's 8:50 comment is right on.

It's logical that productivity will go up if workers aren't "graded" merely on "attendance" and "effort" rather than the only thing that really matters in business: results.

My former bosses favored the people who put in extra-long hours, never took vacations or sick leave, talked about how much work they had, etc. The few of us who were efficient and did our job very well were not noticed so much. Until we QUIT. Then it became apparent that our jobs were no easier than any others - we were so good, we made it LOOK easy!

The onus is on the worker to show results when just being there doesn't count.

Posted by: granny | December 11, 2006 9:34 AM

I would HATE having a totally "flex" job. I like coming to work, getting the job done, and leaving all the work in the office! When I'm home in the evening or on weekends I'm OFF DUTY! And when I take vacation time whether for a vacation, or to accompany my son on a fieldtrip, I'm also OFF DUTY! I like having the clear separation between what's work time, and what's MY TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!! All the flexibility in the world wouldn't make me want to give that up.

Posted by: I Agree with Fred | December 11, 2006 9:34 AM

When I was a marketing writer at the Baltimore Sun, I came in late one morning having been up all night with a sick animal that died in my arms. But I stayed late at work that day in order to make up the time. My manager docked my pay. To this day I can't understand this kind of thinking, the "sit at your desk with your hands folded" mentality.

On the other hand, many of us appreciate or need some structure and like working with others. The post doesn't explain how people on 100% flextime work with their colleagues. I'd be curious to know more about this experiment.

Posted by: Sharon | December 11, 2006 9:38 AM

I think this would work dandy in retail. If they are graded by results, well that is sales. They will want to work when people are buying. The days of one or two open checkouts are gone. I'm shopping at Best Buy.

Posted by: dotted | December 11, 2006 9:40 AM

Of course there are down sides to any work situation, but oh, how I wish them success! My company, and manager are relatively flexible, and that's a big factor in why I stay. Being able to get your child to the medical appointment or drive a carpool makes all the difference in stress level. I didn't mind doing work at our vacation home when the alternative was being at the office. Technology has made this workable. Flexible schedules help in a global business world, too - I can work with my international clients much easier this way.

Posted by: Kirsten | December 11, 2006 9:40 AM

This is what my wife has to say about this matter. (Call her Fredia) She has a part time job with flexible hours but her supervisor thinks that she is on 24 hr call. Fredia has been subject to many Saturday 8 pm calls for stuff that could have waited until Monday. Fredia did get a vacation last week, when her boss took a cruise and could not call!

Posted by: Fred | December 11, 2006 9:41 AM

"It's what enables folks in India, Russia, Philippines, etc. to do your job for 1/3 the wage."

They don't do it better, they just do it cheaper. This is a policy/government problem, not a flex problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 9:44 AM

Maybe I don't know enough about Best Buy's program, but are they expecting you to be available ALL the time or just 9-5 or what? Or can you just get your work done when you want to? Is there any reason you couldn't still be unavailable on weekends/vacation? I think it is up the WORKER to define his/her free time and not let flex time cause a blur between home and work. As much as technology allows that blur to happen, it also has a lot of ways to prevent it: "out of office" email messages, temporary voicemail messages, etc. And if you WANT to work from 9-5 in your office, is there anything in the flex-time program stopping you? Seems like a win-win to me!

Posted by: notyetamom | December 11, 2006 9:45 AM

Hooray that a big company recognizes the face time does not equal productivity. I could not agree more. However, I would not enjoy a job that didn't require SOME face time for teambuilding and collective brainstorming. I'm one of those people who likes to separate work and home - although I know many others like to mix these up. When I'm at work, I'm at work. When I'm at home, I don't want to do any paid-work unless it is to quickly check emails once or twice.

I coordinate a group of people who are out at 22 different sites throughout the week, but we all come together on Mondays for a 2-hour meeting. I honestly think that this weekly face connection is responsible for our high morale and sense of belonging. It allows us to efficiently train each other on new projects, share our experiences about how project roll-outs are working in the 'real' world, and work out solutions to sticky issues.

Finally, I clicked on the Best Buy article linked by Leslie, and noticed that the two HR leaders at Best Buy are against 'flextime' - meaning face-time shifts that are reduced hours or shifted hours. They say these are nightmares for managers to handle. I disagree. If employees can work out equitable ways to reduce or shift their hours, they can still maintain that division between work and life, and be very productive workers. It may take a bit more juggling to work out the schedules, but then everyone knows when each worker will actually be in the office.

That said, I'm routing for Best Buy to pull this off. This is an important experiment for all of us.

Posted by: equal | December 11, 2006 9:46 AM

Ethyl -

But there will always be stress associated with a job
- it is just a matter of what kind and how much.

9:34 - while hubby is pretty much expected to be available 24/7, even on a lot of vacations - yea, its worth it. He even says so, most of the time. Granted, just this past Sat night, he got an email and had to do something at 11:30 for a few minutes. not so great, but not so bad, either. Even if we had kids, this is not a big deal.
He is well-compensated for being available at such times (not the most important thing, but it makes it less annoying). SOMETIMES this is a pain and frustrating. Yes - he has had to stay up all night while we are visiting family - his or mine - but that fact of it is that he was able to be there - if the choice is between him having to do some work while away or not being able to go at all, we will both take the former. Granted, he is looking forward to a trip to a place in 2007 where there isn't any electricity - well, there isn't any internet connection, anyway. And no Blackberry service. But no indoor plumbing, either.

The Best Buy plan is all about realizing that life happens and that we all have one and that work doens't have to interfere with it all of the time. . .

I had a job that was not quite this flexible once - I loved it more than any other job that I had. One morning I had a migraine and my medication wasn't helping. I went to the doctor at lunch time and got a shot of another medication, and 15 minutes later, the migraine was gone. I went back to work and my 'boss' was surprised to see me back there - I said -well, I am fine now, why not? My thought was this - if they are so good to me, I am going to be good to them, too. I didn't need to go home and crawl under the blankets, but I might have had it been a different situation and I hadn't loved my job so much.

Posted by: WAMC | December 11, 2006 9:49 AM

The ultimate flex, results-driven job... but junior faculty are as bad as any for long hours and imbalance. It can be more rewarding, but you do lose separation of work from life.

Posted by: academia | December 11, 2006 9:50 AM

I have a friend who works flextime. They can have to be there during certain "core hours" which are like 10-2 but other than that they can come and go as needed. Any meetings or conference calls are scheduled between 10 and 2.

Posted by: KB silver Spring | December 11, 2006 9:52 AM

Several good poibnts have been raised so far in the comments. People do need to be able to separate work from the rest of their lives, to meet with co-workers, to be given an amount of work that can reasonably done in the paid hours without causing them to become 24/7 on-call workers.

Each business must adapt their accountability current system to measure the work accomplished by each employee.

And there IS the global workplace waiting to take any jobs we offer. That WILL happen. We can't be like GM & Ford and stick our heads in the sand about that!

I am thinking that a new definition of "patriotism" might be hiring local people to keep our country and economy strong, flexible, and reasonably independent. We might not be at war right now if we didn't need that oil so much.

Posted by: granny | December 11, 2006 9:53 AM

How does this work? How is work qualified and quantified? If an employee can complete work in 5 hours that most other employees need 8 hours to complete, will the workloads be increased?

There are always eager beavers who can upset the applecart.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 9:56 AM

Hi Scarry -- I am also curious how this will play out on the retail floor! I can't imagine how it is going to work but given how creative Best Buy has been, I imagine they will find a way...

Armchair Mom -- Agree totally that technology and science have done incredible things for women and that these are often overlooked. Most freedoms in terms of balancing work and family -- including reproductive freedoms -- can be traced to huge advances in science and technology.

And hey, DC -- the fabulous part of what Best Buy has done is that it does not differentiate in any way between the childfree and child-chosers. The benefits are completely neutral in terms of gender, family and work status. If you read the article in Business Week, you'll see that the HR team that put Results Only Work Environment in place was focused on offering this program to everyone, so that no one could complain about bias, and to avoid your brand of resentment. Guess that's not stopping you, however, but you're wrong this time.

Posted by: Leslie | December 11, 2006 9:59 AM

The more-productive worker should get his/her chioce of a raise or shorter work hours!

(Yes, I realize this essentialy constitutes a "piecework" mentality.)

Posted by: granny | December 11, 2006 10:00 AM

Coincidentally, the Wall Street Journal has a piece today about professional companies (law firms, accounting firms, etc ) expanding flex time beyond moms to other people, including childless people. Worth reading, if you can get your hands on a copy.

Posted by: quartermaine | December 11, 2006 10:08 AM

I've had mostly positive experiences with my flexible work schedule. The work/life line definitely blurs, but if it is done right (and if you have a good manager who ensures it is done right), your life should be enhanced by being able to work whenever and wherever you want. You may end up being overworked at home, but if a company would take advantage of you that way, they would probably overwork you in an office setting anyway. Almost everyone I work with works normal business hours and those that don't are very responsive to e-mails or an emergency phone call if needed. We all know that if there is a problem with our work habits, this flexible schedule privilege will be taken away.

This past week, two co-workers were able to work from the out-of-town hospitals where they were caring for loved-ones. Of course they wouldn't have to work at all if they did not want to during this time, but this enabled them to physically be with their loved ones while saving their vacation/personal days (which are generally running low towards the end of the year) for when their loved one is out of the hospital and really needs their full-time attention.

This schedule is not for everyone but it has so many advantages when done right.

Posted by: kgbmal | December 11, 2006 10:09 AM

I know quite a few people who work for Best Buy, both with and without kids. One girlfriend (no kids) trained for triathlons at 10 a.m. every day when the gym was empty. A friend who was a new mom at the same time I was loved working from home and being able to head to the daycare to nurse instead of pump. The caution they both had was that they ended up working when they weren't expecting to - not because people were calling them, but they would be out at Target or on a jog and would think of work they had to do. They ended up always carrying around Post-its so that they were prepared for anything that popped up.

Posted by: Mpls Mama | December 11, 2006 10:11 AM

Leslie,

I hope it works out too! It would mean more flexibility for people who want to go to school, pick up children, go bowling, etc.

I do most of my shopping online anyway, so it really doesn't affect me. I also get a sweet discount through my nephew, so I go through him for anything big!

Posted by: scarry | December 11, 2006 10:12 AM

I am glad there is more flexibility. I would like greater flexibility. I would ideally work from home, saving a 2 hour a commute/day, and work 6-2:30. But for now that just seems like a dream.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 11, 2006 10:18 AM

My office workhours used to be 7:30-4:30, five days a week, M-F without fail, for years and years.

Then, under the guise of avoiding the rush hour, they began relaxing the times. First it was "start anywhere between 6:30 and 9:30 and work 8 hours/day", then we got multiple workweek schedules. Now anyone can set a schedule both when he starts work and how many days he works, so long as the requisite 40 hours is done.

I work four 9 hour days starting at 6:30 in the morning, and a four hour day on Friday mornings. Others have four 10 hour days, while some stayed with the 5 day, 8 hour/day schedule. We can switch around schedules as needed too.

My wife's job is similar; she only has to work 40 hours over the 7 day week. That is a double edged sword, though; there have been times when she pulled "all-nighters" and didn't come home until the next morning when I was getting up. It's all about the production, but too many 12 hour work days in one week will wear someone out very quickly.

Posted by: John | December 11, 2006 10:19 AM

I think this is great! That said, I'm one of those people who would rather have to work for a little bit at an off-regular-work-hour time than sit at my desk from 9-5 "on-call" if there isn't a project for my attention. I also don't think that retaining "regular" work day schedules is a barrier to outsourcing. If a company has people in India who can do your job for 1/8th of the cost, they'll find a way to have that person do it. I wonder why more businesses don't operate on a results-centric expectation for their employees.

Posted by: Susan | December 11, 2006 10:20 AM

When we started our office telecommuting, with some people working from home 1 or 2 days a week, I figured that some of these people would use it as a vacation. I see these people who used to hang out all day in the hallways and lunchroom (next to my office) gabbing all day. Now, they are locked away in their offices all day, which I guess is them working hard on their day at the office so they can do whatever they want when they are home. Some people gripe about it, but I love it. It's quieter, and I know they must be more productive.

With the flex time, I would guess that people would be more productive. They have a motivation to get their work done so they can do other things. One thing I have considered... if the employers start to notice that they have several employees who can perform their jobs in 6 to 7 hours per day, on average, won't they think that maybe they employ too many people. Maybe they will cut back on staff and combine some jobs. Those left could have more work without more pay.

Posted by: Brian | December 11, 2006 10:20 AM

Hell yeah!

As a genreal rule I shop at small scale places, mom and pops whenever I can, even if the price is a bit higher. I'm now granting an exception for Best Buy, who will now get my electronics and dvd dollars as a reward for forward-thinking personnel and business practice. You can bet I'll be telling everyone this news, too. Its the 21st century---let's start acting like it and making essential progress for a more sane life.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | December 11, 2006 10:20 AM

Bravo for BB! I agree that we are becoming a workforce of contractors. I like to think of myself as a "blue collar" worker for a new millenium in the best sense of the term. Work efficiently, master my trade, and then get paid a higher wage because I can do more in less time. The best way to avoid being outsourced is to improve productivity. No matter how cheaply someone else can do the work, if it takes them a correspondigly similar increase in time to do it, the incentive to outsource is reduced.

Posted by: equal_too | December 11, 2006 10:21 AM

Your federal government THINKS it has flexible working hours. In practice, what this means is that you get to pick the hours to which you are expected to rigidly adhere. Someone who comes in late or leaves early more than once a week or so -- even if he takes leave -- is a bad employee, regardless of work output. And management constantly pats itself on the back for its progressiveness. Remember that next time you complain about gov't workers.

Posted by: Federal Worker | December 11, 2006 10:21 AM

Good for Best Buy, now maybe they can open more than two registers so we won't have to wait in long lines.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 10:34 AM

To Federal Worker: not all workplaces are the same. You do many of us a grave disservice by making such generalized statements. Our office works very well and people are not considered "bad" if there is an accident on the beltway or the metro is slow.

Posted by: Also a federal worker | December 11, 2006 10:35 AM

I used to work for a start-up that gave me 100% flexibility and I and my family loved it. But the pay was so low that after 2.5 years there, a few months after my son started kindergarten, I took up a job with a big company where face-time is very important and I usually have to be around for 8-9 hours. When I made the switch, I missed the flexibility, but I no longer constantly worried about the work that needed to be done, no longer felt the need to sit up after dinner trying to finishing off the work and did not have to deal with issues on the weekends. I lost the flexibility of popping in at my son's school whenever I wanted to, but my time with my family went up drastically - every weekend is for my family and there is complete work-family separation. I am more relaxed now. I guess a large part of it is also due to the fact that my son is older now and more independent. Another baby and I might just start wishing for more flexibility!!!

Posted by: TwinCitiesLurker | December 11, 2006 10:36 AM

I am very impressed to see flex time returning to the world of work. My work place ended it some years ago and insisted that people come it at certain defined hours no matter what. It wasn't a very productive work place.
Flextime is a way to reward workers and actually improve the bottom line, a marvelous way to attract and keep good employees in a tight labor market.

Posted by: Southern Girl | December 11, 2006 10:36 AM

It is time that employers stop equating face time with productivity. Period. Whether that means a plan such as Best Buy's, or one that simply allows flexibility, we need to think outside the cubicle. As a mom who works from home part-time, I often wish I had an office to go to and set hours so that I wasn't working at midnight. But at the same time, I also am grateful that I can set my own work time so I don't have to negotiate time off for a doctor's appointment.

The point is that whether we have children or not, we all have lives outside of work, and there are times that ALL of us need flexibility. Reading this blog, I often feel that posters think there's a huge line between those that have children and those that don't -- but when it comes to work-life balance, there's really not that much difference. We all want it. When I was childless and had a long commute, I really wanted to work from home one day a week to shave 2 hours of commuting time from my day. I wanted to get home in time to experiment with a new recipe rather than eat dinner at 9 p.m. every night. But my employer was nervous about that, and felt that face-time ensured productivity.

There are a number of reasons to allow flexibility that go beyond whether we have children or not, including saving time and gas spent on commuting, and knowing you have an employer that trusts you to do your job.

Posted by: writing mommy | December 11, 2006 10:40 AM

writing mommy:

You are very correct in that people who do not have kids also want 'flex-time' - even if Best Buy isn't calling it that. there is not doubt that there are a lot of things that can only be down during what are called 'regular business hours' and we all need to do them - kids or no. Now - I think that there is a limit to the types of jobs that 'flex time' works with - just about anything that is traditional customer service isn't very conducive to it. But, in the places where it will work, it is a great thing and we can hope that it will be used more and more.

Posted by: WAMC | December 11, 2006 10:54 AM

If your job is suited for working at home, then face time is not a good measure of productivity, eg. writers. No point wasting your time in the office, when good writing can be done at home in your PJs.
However, let's not go overboard and say things like "It is time that employers stop equating face time with productivity. Period". There are many jobs where face time = productivity, eg. Cashiers, repairman, doctors, restaurant staff. The majority of readers here must be white-collar office workers whose jobs lend themselves easily to flex time. Keep in mind that in many other jobs face time is the only measure of productivity.

Posted by: TinkyWinky | December 11, 2006 11:00 AM

The point is that whether we have children or not, we all have lives outside of work, and there are times that ALL of us need flexibility.

Why bring this up today when it has nothing to do with the topic or the new policy at Best Buy.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 11:01 AM

To "Also a Federal Worker": Your statement about your workplace that "people are not considered 'bad' if there is an accident on the beltway or the metro is slow" just shows that you are a manager. Managers think that arriving at 9:30 instead of 9:00 is an offense that requires an acceptable excuse. And "commuting disaster" excuses are one of the few categories that managers consider acceptable.

Just in case you're not a manager, try this experiment: Come in an hour late tomorrow and tell your boss "It was such a beautiful morning, I decided to take a walk." Then work 10 hours the next day and tell your boss "I was on a roll." Then work 6 hours the next day and tell your boss "Things were dead around here, so I just went home." You'll be much more productive, and you'll be in his office getting reamed out for being a "disgruntled worker."

Posted by: Federal Worker | December 11, 2006 11:01 AM

To Federal Worker | December 11, 2006 10:21 AM

I feel sorry for you in your office. In my job, I have to work 80 hours in two weeks, and attend a few regularly scheduled meetings. Period. It's glorious. It's still face-time, not productivity, but even so it's worlds above other options. Perhaps you should hop agencies?

Posted by: BonnySwan | December 11, 2006 11:03 AM

I am not a manager. I like where I work and who I work for. Our boss gives us the 59 minute rule (for those not feds it is usually a day before a holiday when the boss gives you a free hour off so you can leave early) before every holiday. If people are late we stay late and make it up. It is never a problem. You sound unhappy - sorry.

Posted by: Also a Federal Worker | December 11, 2006 11:06 AM

I can't imagine my job ever going flex-time - teaching high school chemistry, since most parents depend on us for their child care time... :)

Posted by: amw | December 11, 2006 11:14 AM

I've seen post office workers that punch in, work slothfully slow, take long lunch breaks, shutdown 30mins early, then punch out at 5pm. Let's measure their productivity (output) instead of face time.

Posted by: LazyBone | December 11, 2006 11:19 AM

TinkyWinky said: "Keep in mind that in many other jobs face time is the only measure of productivity." While I understand his/her point that some jobs can't be done from home (e.g., brick-layer), the statement quoted is totally incorrect. Face time and productivity, though sometimes related, are completely different. Sadly, most managers today use the formula "(regular) face time = productivity," even though they know it is nonsense, simply because regular attendance is so much easier to measure and document than performance. To put it bluntly: most managers are incompetent as managers.

Posted by: Federal Worker | December 11, 2006 11:22 AM

My concern is also what about people that can get their job done in 3 hours. If they work 3 hours and then leave, the boss will start giving them more work. Are they getting compensated for the additional work or getting penalized for being extra efficient/fast?

Posted by: No Name | December 11, 2006 11:23 AM

This awesome and progressive. It should be the work that people do rather than face time and smoozing that count. If you spend too much time smoozing, you won't be producing, and keeping track of who does more of which should help even things out between the smoozers and the workers. I hope all companies and government agencies are paying attention to this and will start to follow suit. Many home lives should start to improve, as well, as the stress levels begin to decline. Maybe even road rage will begin to decline as people feel less pressure to get somewhere by the clock!

Posted by: Part-timer | December 11, 2006 11:32 AM

"Are they getting compensated for the additional work or getting penalized for being extra efficient/fast?"

If they get more responsibility/work then they will be viewed as more valuable. This will go a long way come review time. My salary buys my employer a certain amount of my time. It's up to my employer to utilize this time in the most efficient way.

Posted by: equal_too | December 11, 2006 11:34 AM

59 minute rule

My Fed office has have skeleton(bare bones staff)days. The workday before every holiday, staff gets to leave 3 hours earlier than the usual quitting time. We take turns being the skeletons that remain. These days tend to be big yawns anyway, so management is boosting employee morale at very little cost to productivity.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 11:35 AM

I have mixed feelings about this.
I really prefer offices with core-hour requirements. Then you have some assurance you will be able to find who you need.

In my agency I find that the upper level staff are there all the time. Mid-level employees, most likely that way for life, are in-and-out, working at home four days a week.

I think it favors those who bother to show up on a regular schedule every day.

Even though these benefits are offered I think you want to look carefully at who takes them and how they do over the longer-haul. Motherhood or not, some of us want to get ahead.

Posted by: Mixedfeelings | December 11, 2006 11:48 AM

To TinkyWinky -- you are right, there are jobs where productivity can only be measured by a physical presence at the workplace and I made a typical mistake in assuming that we're all white-collar workers.

To the anonymous poster at 11:01 -- I think talking about needing flexibility is appropriate to today's post about Best Buy because that's the bottom line, isn't it? Why would Best Buy have this new policy if they weren't looking to give their employees more flexibility?

Posted by: writing mommy | December 11, 2006 11:49 AM

I haven't read the comments but I have to say that although I support flexibility my family's experience with one of the corporations cited is that the hours actually get longer - one reason companies go for it. Once it's all performance-based, if deadlines or goals aren't reasonable, it can get very messy.

Posted by: Shandra | December 11, 2006 12:09 PM

so, if you are the BestBuy corporate receptionist, do you get to work from home? Or if you are in the BestBuy corporate mailroom, can you work while you hunt?

I see this as more perks for the privledged. The real worker out there can't define their work like this.

Posted by: phillyfilly | December 11, 2006 12:22 PM

What makes a worker "real?"

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 12:30 PM

I wonder how this is going to work at the retail-store level. There must be a minimum staffing requirement per shift during operating hours. I bet when push comes to shove, "flexibility" means "you must work these shifts, take your time off later". When the Christmas rush is on, stores must hire extra staff.

Also, floor staff at retail stores tends to be the younger crowd, rarely see 40+ parents. I suspect the demographics of the Best Buy workforce allows them to implement this policy a little easier than say, the Federal Govt.

I don't see how this policy can work in a multi-specialty medical group, construction site, auto mechanic shop.

Posted by: LazyBone | December 11, 2006 12:35 PM

My office is very flexible and life-friendly. Most days I come in late because 1) I hate driving in rush hour and 2) I'm not a morning person so I'm happier coming in after rush hour than before it. Last month my sister was in town visiting and I took off early every day that week. I didn't want to use vacation hours so in anticipation of her visit I spent some long days in the office the week before getting as much work done as I could. A co-worker comes in late several mornings a weeks so he can get in some morning training with his cycling team...other days he take the afternoon off working both morning and evening. Others like having a set schedule and we know they'll be here from exactly 8 to 5 every day. Some of my coworkers work from home several days a week. Some work 9 hour days and take half days on Friday or every other Friday off. Those with children work around school and day care needs. Everyone gets the same flexibility regardless of their family situation.

We're all treated as adults and expected to act like it. When I have a project that I need Joe's input on I'll ask Joe what hours he's planning on being in the office and figure out a good time to sit down together. Occasionally I might have a question for a coworker who isn't in but rarely is it an emergency that can't wait until the next day. I know how to operate a telephone and email so if the coworker is at home I can still get the answer. While some people might choose to work evenings and weekends there is an unwritten rule that you don't call coworkers during those times. When a project is undergoing a big push or something that I expect to need regular input from others than everyone involved tries to be in the office for those couple of days. My office has been operating like this for 10+ yrs without major problems. Those people who are lazy, don't want to work, and take advantage of the policy don't last long, the remainder tend to stay for the long term. Most of my coworkers have been here for more than 10 yrs, several more than 20. The company creates a lot of loyalty for respecting out ability to do our jobs without micromanaging our every move.

Posted by: cw | December 11, 2006 12:39 PM

Flexibility can work in more areas IF campanies want it to. I work on an IT Help Desk and the company wanted to offer flexibility. The staff got together and worked out the details to the company requirements for on-site staff. For example, no more than 4 people scheduled off on any given day to allow room for sick days, etc. We negotiated amongst ourselves and presented the possible schedule which was accepted. It has worked well and has also fostered a team atmosphere at work since we have all buy in to the schedule.

Posted by: equal_too | December 11, 2006 12:46 PM

Leslie:

dc wasn't criticizing Best Buy's policy; as a matter of fact, the first clause commended the policy. S/he was criticizing your wording. Re-read the post and try to understand the difference.

That said, this seems very cool, and I can't wait to see how it works in the actual stores. Receptionists can answer calls from home, with the right technology, and as long as the mail gets distributed in a timely manner, nobody cares when the mailroom employees come in. Bravo, Best Buy.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 12:46 PM

-I remember reading somewhere that ANY change resulted in increased productivity, initially. I think that time will tell if this is as beneficial as it seems now.

-If you read the linked article and not just Leslie's post, you will see that Best Buy agreed to this only after a few renegades implemented it as pilots and were able to show value to Best Buy. For example, lower turnover, increased productivity. If the benefits to the company don't hold true over the long term, I would guess that the experiment will be over.

-I find it hard to believe that the retail people will be able to choose their own schedules, especially at Christmas time.

-One of the potential savings to the companies was lower costs related to office space if people are not coming into the office. This could be a problem for many people if offices are closed and people MUST work from home or find another location on their own. It could become very isolating and lonely if there was very limited face-to-face interaction with actual human beings.

-Work from home sounds great, but isn't always. I dealt with a co-worker who worked parttime from home a few hours per day and also cared for her grandson. Her scheduled hours were around the child's nap schedule. We are in different time zones. There is only a small window of time to speak with her during the day. At times, the grandson did not cooperate and was singing loudly and playing in the background. This was very distracting. I understand that it was a great situation for her, but I wouldn't want to be working from home with multiple distractions. My teenagers are capable of making as much noise as a toddler and can actually whine much more. I don't have a room that I can close off and use as an office, and I really don't relish the idea of working from my bedroom.

Posted by: flipside | December 11, 2006 12:47 PM

This may be a win-win situation for both management and employees. But, I don't for a minute think that it is being done just to make the employees happy. The bottom line is the deciding factor.

Posted by: flipside | December 11, 2006 12:53 PM

I've called sales reps who work from home and the background noises of whining children and pets can be quite annoying. These same sales reps also made the greatest number of errors in processing my orders.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 12:53 PM

"Receptionists can answer calls from home, with the right technology,"

Receptionists also greet people. that might not be so easy from home :0).

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 12:55 PM

"Sadly, most managers today use the formula "(regular) face time = productivity," even though they know it is nonsense, simply because regular attendance is so much easier to measure and document than performance. To put it bluntly: most managers are incompetent as managers."

Sorry your experience has been so homogenous. Most of us have had both good managers and poor managers. There are plenty of each in the world. If you have data to support you across-the-board slam, please share. Otherwise, you're anecdotal experience says more about your inertia in not choosing work environment managed by someone you respect. and no, I'm not a manager. I am someone who has left jobs because of poor management and selected the last 3 jobs (had to relocate to advance) based on good management.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 12:59 PM

The thought of even more people on cell phones and blackberries while driving terrifies me and the thought of more of the same in public while not driving annoys me.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 1:00 PM

"Receptionists also greet people. that might not be so easy from home :0)"

That's true. But there are ways around that; outsource the front desk job, and keep company people on hand for individual departments. I'm assuming that Best Buy is big enough for that to work, of course.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 1:00 PM

That's the job I want (outsourced receptionist). How nice to work somewhere that gives flexibility to everyone they employ while I can't get the flexibility. So much for looking out for the little people.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 1:02 PM

Wouldn't it be dandy if you went out and bought a new cell phone at Best Buy... featuring the new real life duck call for a ringtone?

Just wait a few more years. the term "Flex-Time" will turn into a corporate euphenism for the 18 hour workday. Right now, they are called "salaried" employees.

Posted by: Father of 4 | December 11, 2006 1:02 PM

Our version of flextime is, you can work 9 - 5 and then additional hours as requested or demanded by clients. The more untethered we are to a 9 -5 environment, the more comfortable clients are sending e-mails at 7 p.m., expecting us to read and respond to them from home, and acting on them by the next morning. If I have to get an answer from a colleague whose version of flextime is, "Is Jim coming in tomorrow late or not at all?" it's very, very difficult to wrap things up. E-mail isn't good for collaboration, discussion, input from multiple persons, or touchy subjects.

I also echo the responder who commented on the distraction factor when you make a professional call and there are babies/pets, whatever in the background. Those calls are far less efficient than if the person were in the office. Sure, they might be reading e-mail or responding to this blog while on the phone, but the distraction is less obvious.

In my experience, this only works well for persons whose work is entirely independent of others. I don't know too many of those.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 1:14 PM

"My concern is also what about people that can get their job done in 3 hours. If they work 3 hours and then leave, the boss will start giving them more work. Are they getting compensated for the additional work or getting penalized for being extra efficient/fast?"

So if Joe Smith can get his normal work load done in 3 hours what is he spending his other 5 on? Sounds like his normal operating practice is ripping off his company for 5 hrs a day. Maybe he should have more work. I'm sorry but this argument strikes me as 1) I'm lazy
2) I don't work much while I'm at work.
3) God forbid my company start a policy the exposes my laziness and cheating even if it might benefit the honest worker who actually works while at the office.

My company allows us to work when and where we want but we are actually expected to work. This means that when I'm facing a deadline I might have to work late several days in a row. It also means that other times I can leave early or start my weekend at noon on Friday. Sometimes the office is slow any everyone leaves early, but when there is work to do we're expected to work. I'm a salaried employee which in my company means I'm expected to work 40 hrs a week. If I work more than that I take some time off the next week, if I work less one week, then I work more the next. When I finish with one project I start another. Sometimes I work in the office sometimes at home. Just depends on what I'm working on and how I can best get the work done. We also have contract workers who are hired for a specific project and when it's done they go home. If a contracted can get his job done in 3 hrs more power to him, he's being paid for the work not his time (and his pay and benefits reflect this). We also have a label for the folks who work 3 hrs a day, it's called part-time. I love the flexibility my company gives me in my work hours and the availability of working at home. If I wanted I job where pay was based solely on getting the project done I'd be a contractor. But I like having a regular paycheck and benefits as opposed to larger but more sporadic pay of a contractor.

Posted by: cw | December 11, 2006 1:29 PM

I would love it if my job went to Best Buy's program because I would be done for the day! :+) But since I work in the newspaper business I don't see that happening since you "never know when news will strike!" (as my editor likes to say).
In some jobs this program will work great, but in others I don't see this being too succesful. I too wonder how they plan to pull this off in their retail stores too. Should be interesting.

Posted by: Melissa | December 11, 2006 1:31 PM

I work for an accounting firm that follows a flexible schedule & flexible workplace model. We are pretty much able to work whenever we want from wherever we want as long as we meet our billable hour requirements. Of course, some work must be done at client sites and obviously that needs to be done during the client's office hours. But otherwise if I want to leave early or come in late I don't have to ask, I just do it. If I want to work from home, no problem. We have "hotel" cubicles, meaning that we just pick a desk and set up our laptops if we want to work in the office. I generally choose to work regular hours from the office, but I greatly appreciate the ability to work from home when I need to have the furnace repaired, etc., and I love not having to use vacation time for dr's appointments, etc.

We also have many employees who work reduced work weeks, or work entirely from home and are not scheduled for any jobs at client sites.

Technology is a great thing- if we didn't have the ability to remotely access our network from anywhere with wireless access this wouldn't work. We are also converting to a paperless work environment.

Posted by: Carifly | December 11, 2006 1:37 PM

I don't have a home PC or a cellphone.
My office is a lot nicer then my house, the feds pay for my bus pass (10 minute commute), and my utility bills are lower when I am not home.

There are warm, friendly people in my building who look forward to seeing me.
The Jehovah's Witnesses can't bother me at my office. I prefer to stay where I am.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 1:39 PM

My husband's company theoretically lets employees take "comp time" off to make up for things like international travel, but in practice it's not really available. It's manager by manager and his manager lives for his work, but also, there's no time to take "extra" time off. There's always some task they want him to do. I feel that if you calculated his salary by the actual time he spends working, he'd be making $5 per hour.

Posted by: m | December 11, 2006 1:43 PM

In response to the folks who don't understand how flexible hours would work at the retail store: it's highly likely that each store has a variety of people who would like to work a variety of different schedules. The manager would need to find out who wants to work what schedule, fit people in accordingly, and then fill in the gaps. Does this mean that some people will end up with a few shifts that aren't part of their preferred schedule? Probably, but I think folks who normally have to work whenever they're assigned to work would be happier if they could get their preferred schedule 75% of the time.

To the person who claimed that the federal gov't wasn't truly flexible because you couldn't work 6 hours one day, then 10 the next without being called a disgruntled employee - this is not entirely true. As an initial matter, by law government workers must work at least 80 hours over every 2 week period (unless you're on a reduced schedule and get paid less, or you're using leave). However, there are means by which you can spread that time out how you wish. My last year working for the gov't, I worked a "comp time schedule" - I could work extra hours one day, and use those extra hours as "leave" on other days (including carrying over some of those hours to the next pay period). This schedule (and a great manager who didn't care about face time) allowed me to get my work done and still travel across the country to visit my then-fiance, now-husband once a month.

Posted by: Seattle Lawyer | December 11, 2006 1:49 PM

Fascinating discussion...I really hope more companies try this "experiment" and see if it works for them.

Posted by: Leslie | December 11, 2006 2:03 PM

I find that many people are putting in the 8-10 hours a days at the office and still expected to be available by cell phone, blackberry and laptop. So I can completely see the benefits of flex time for this group.

My husband gets calls for work in the evening, on weekends and very, very early in the morning. Often these calls mean he needs to work immediately. On the days that he does this and 10 hours in the office plus commute he is bitter about these calls. On the days where he works from home and has had lunch with the two year old, dinner with the family and spent some time getting some personal stuff done he is far more willing to accept these intrusions.

Not every job is 9-5 and I think forcing a 9-5 schedule on everyone is more tradition than good business sense.

Posted by: Raising One of Each | December 11, 2006 2:04 PM

I think, on the whole, this is definitely a step in the right direction, especially because it's not a complicate program for parents- but for employees.

I think a lot of the issues parents have with their work/life balance is that they want to be seen as parents, but at work they are actually seen as employees with special needs.

The reality is- every employee has some special needs.

Fred has a point about balancing work/life, but I'd say it now lays the onus on the employEE to balance their lives appropriately (unless you get a really sucky boss who expects on-call stuff at all hours).

I work in a small office that has lots of flexibility. I (no kids) choose to stick to the basic 9-5 Mon-Fri, get my nose in the dirt, work and then go home and not worry on evenings and weekends. My co-worker (many young kids) is the one who comes in later, takes long lunches with her husband, stays late during the week and comes in on the weekends- despite a lot of holler on her part early in the job about wanting to be able to come in and leave early so she could spend more time with her kids. The only one putting this pressure on is herself.

Posted by: Liz D | December 11, 2006 2:05 PM

"Flex time," "outsourcing," "telecommuting"? That is all "HR" mumbo-jumbo. If we would stick to real words, maybe the workplace wouldn't become such a mamby-pamby disaster. I don't even shop at Best Buy because NOBODY IS EVER AVAILABLE TO HELP DURING REGULAR BUSINESS HOURS. Their stores where I live are already a failure. The employees are inept and their prices can be beat on the Internet. Add "flex time" to the mix and they'll have serious problems.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 2:19 PM

Speaking of hourly pay, I'm a government contractor and although we don't get paid by the hour, we still keep timecards that keep track of hourly work (not sure how other professions do this). But I found that most companies do not pay overtime to salaried employees and those that did have stopped or put higher thresholds (e.g. you don't get overtime pay until you work more than 20% over your regular hours). Would people be okay about being expected to be available all the time if they got paid extra? It would certainly make it a lot more tolerable... maybe that is the next step in this experiment!

Posted by: notyetamom | December 11, 2006 2:21 PM

I don't think corporations are going to jump on the bandwagon with this experiment. Think they'll look at Best Buy's experience as a model? Nah, they're too busy laying off people and outsourcing to "increase profits".

And to the person who thinks answering phones at home is a good idea, forget it. Even McDonald's has someone in India taking your order at the drive-thru window!

Posted by: LazyBone | December 11, 2006 3:03 PM

"And hey, DC -- the fabulous part of what Best Buy has done is that it does not differentiate in any way between the childfree and child-chosers. The benefits are completely neutral in terms of gender, family and work status. If you read the article in Business Week, you'll see that the HR team that put Results Only Work Environment in place was focused on offering this program to everyone, so that no one could complain about bias, and to avoid your brand of resentment. Guess that's not stopping you, however, but you're wrong this time."

Leslie,

I appreciate your response to my post. I was not complaining about any bias on the part of Best Buy. In fact, more companies should follow in their foosteps and take this innovative approach. I was mentioning YOUR bias, as reflected in your original post, where you refer to "grumbling" by child-free workers, as if their gripe is not legitimate.

Perhaps I did not make myself clear.

Posted by: dc | December 11, 2006 3:50 PM

I enjoy the best buy ad where the boyfriend and girlfriend say "Happy Holidays" to each other before he gives her a best buy box. Apparently they haven't been dating long enough to know each others' religion.

Posted by: Awkward | December 11, 2006 3:58 PM

This might not be the popular opinion, but I am both amused and annoyed by the sheer hubris here. We certainly are an overprivileged society when people can whine on a blog all day about wanting flex hours: perhaps these companies SHOULD outsource more jobs and give us something to TRULY complain about!

Posted by: Studentmom2be | December 11, 2006 4:03 PM

"So if Joe Smith can get his normal work load done in 3 hours what is he spending his other 5 on? Sounds like his normal operating practice is ripping off his company for 5 hrs a day. Maybe he should have more work. I'm sorry but this argument strikes me as 1) I'm lazy
2) I don't work much while I'm at work.
3) God forbid my company start a policy the exposes my laziness and cheating even if it might benefit the honest worker who actually works while at the office."

I think in a lot of industries there's a fair argument that someone who is smarter and faster at their job should get paid more. If I can write a better document in a shorter amount of time than my colleagues, I should be paid accordingly - so, using the original poster's example, if it would take me three hours to do something that would take another person 6, so I do two of them in the time it takes the other person to do one, I should get paid more.

The way you're looking at it is time-based - ie, the employer is paying you for a certain amount of your time and that's what you owe them. The way the original poster was looking at it was output-based - the employer is paying you for doing a certain amount of work. The latter is a lot better fit for much of today's work, and is probably a better model for motivating people who are more capable than average in those fields.

Posted by: Megan | December 11, 2006 4:15 PM

Hi DC -- I do have a bias, which I've made clear many times before, that the complaints by childfree workers seem unfair, mean-spirited, and unproductive. I am willing to believe I'm wrong here, but I think a subtle prejudice is at work here, and that parents who leave for kid-related reasons make easy targets. Childless employees who believe they are taking up the slack should complain to their employers, not vent on the parents. Childless employees who ARE taking up the slack should be compensated or somehow rewarded for their extra work -- by their companies, not by co-workers. I don't think it benefits anyone for them to complain about their fellow employees, hence my reference to "grumbling."

I'm really curious what you think. Do parents make good targets for complaints? Why don't childfree employees who are expected to work late without reward complain to their bosses instead of complaining about their co-workers? Thanks for continuing the discussion.

Posted by: Leslie | December 11, 2006 4:20 PM

This might not be the popular opinion, but I am both amused and annoyed by the sheer hubris here. We certainly are an overprivileged society when people can whine on a blog all day about wanting flex hours: perhaps these companies SHOULD outsource more jobs and give us something to TRULY complain about!

Posted by: Studentmom2be | December 11, 2006 04:03 PM

Let us know what you think you are a mom and working and stuck in the office waiting for someone else and can't be with your child because of that. Of course we're better off than most of the world, that's obvious, it still stinks to not be able to be with the ones you love because of outdated ideas about work hours.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 4:27 PM

I think parents are guilty of invoking their parenthood and children as the reason/excuse for leaving slack for others to pick up.

I've known childless co-workers who could hardly manage 40 hours a week - car batteries, Dr. Appointments, waiting for the maintenance man, friends, family, pets, long commutes, traffic, snow, rain, wind, .....

At any given time in a workplace somebody has some reason why they aren't the one to be the hitter in a crunch. Successful workers/teams trade off and work together so everybody is accommodated.

I once worked with a fellow who took off early in the middle of a crunch because it had snowed and his boat, moored in Annapolis was sinking!

Posted by: RoseG | December 11, 2006 4:31 PM

I think BB's approach sounds great for most salaried workers, but, as others have pointed out, there are some jobs that just require that you be at the office for a specific amount of time. A receptionist is a good example. Also, there needs to be some standards as to what is acceptable for being able to reach people. For instance, I would want to be able to say that I go to bed at 9:30 p.m. and attend religious services on Sunday, so don't be upset when I don't answer my phone during those times.

For those who think that people who work only 3 hours a day and get as much done as others are lazy, I think you are wrong. Salaries and promotions should be given out based on an objective evaluation of the person's value to the organization, not on how much they could produce if they worked more hours (very subjective). We used to have someone where I work who did something productive about 1-2 times a week, and went running or shopped online or did other stuff most of the rest of the time. But, she did things that nobody else could do and knew stuff that no one else knew, and she responded immediately when asked for her help. She was worth her weight in gold. Unfortunately, her managers didn't see it that way and passed her over for promotion one too many times with no salary hikes. She left to work for a smart person who used to work here, and we are all hurting because of it. I think this flexibility would have been perfect for her and the organization.

Posted by: part-timer | December 11, 2006 4:32 PM

"I am willing to believe I'm wrong here, but I think a subtle prejudice is at work here, and that parents who leave for kid-related reasons make easy targets"

I think it depends on where you work. Some places could have that subtle bias against people who do not have children. One is expected to be able to stay late, or on weekends because you don't have any kids. It depends on the policy and/or who your boss is. Your niggling comments to the childfree are most unwelcome Leslie. Keep your bias to yourself and help move the conversation forward.

Posted by: dc2 | December 11, 2006 4:45 PM

Whenever I am tempted to complain about my job, I recall the many friends and colleagues who have lost their jobs in the past years. They are victims of outsourcing, offshoring, downsizing, realignment, efforts to cut every little dollar in costs. I try not to push for flex time because the company will flex you out of a job and offshore it. As a manager I try to accomodate workers as best I can, even giving some time off not-on-the-books with an understanding that he or she will make it up later. Honor system.

I find it quite strange that many bloggers are not too concerned about offshoring or losing their jobs. Perhaps the job market in DC is strong, that most work directly or indirectly for the Federal govt or have jobs closely tied to it. I guess they enjoy more job security than most folks...?

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 11, 2006 4:46 PM

the last time i posted this somebody accused me of whining. i wasn't whining i was amused. it was a good example of the stupidity of managers who are hung up on "face time". i'll post it again. it was 4pm on a friday before a holiday. the server where the software that i supported was down and there were very few people left in the building for me to support even if the software had been running. would my manager let me go home early? no, i had to work 8 hours so i spent another 2 hours sitting at my desk doing nothing. hey, i was getting paid. it was somebody else's dime but the boss just "couldn't" let me go. i thought it was sad & rather amusing.

why is flex time hubris? perhaps because we're not starving we are the people who can take the time to look at a better way of doing things so those that are starving can work better. what is the saying about "when you're up to your butt in aligators it's hard to remember that your main objective was to drain the swamp."

Posted by: quark | December 11, 2006 4:50 PM

'the employer is paying you for doing a certain amount of work'

How would you account for the differences in output? For example, project A may result in one end-product but requires extensive research and development before the end result is produced. Project B may result in 5 end-products but require relatively little effort to produce.

I work in an hourly position and we are expected to work 8 hours per day. If someone is temporarily at loose ends, they are expected to do something, whether it be reviewing past work, learning something new relative to their work, or pitching in and helping someone else. Some workers do this willingly, while others shuffle papers and appear to be doing more than they really are. Management may appear to not be noticing, but it is obvious when promotions and bonuses are awarded that management really does know who is working and who is pretending.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 4:54 PM

I'm not dc, but I'll take a swing at Leslie's questions....

"Do parents make good targets for complaints?"

Yes and no. (How's that for a definite answer.) Yes, because it's easy to see them leaving and have to pick up the slack. Which, yes, sometimes I resent. I'm human - if I have to work late 2 nights 3 weeks in a row because of someone else's child, I'm going to resent it if I don't get something in return.

No, because what I resent more than the work is how much harder it can be for me to get time off than them. Where I've worked, it was very easy to get time off for children's appointments. It was nowhere near as easy for me to get time off for doctor appointments, even when I scheduled them so I'd only be gone a half-hour at the beginning or end of the day.

Also, I think anyone who leaves early or comes in late a lot, parent or not, is going to be a target. Our work culture generally says we should all be at our jobs 9-5 and take as little time off as possible. When we see someone who's bucking that trend, we focus in on them.

"Why don't childfree employees who are expected to work late without reward complain to their bosses instead of complaining about their co-workers?"

Because every work chat or book I've ever seen has told me that I should concentrate on my own work. And that I should only bring up scheduling issues if it will benefit the company. Plus, there's sort of a schoolyard attitude - "Leslie gets time off and I don't!?!?!" I've never heard of a boss who, when this issue was brought to them, said "You know, you're right. Take the afternoon off."

Is it fair? No. I'm very lucky to now work at a company that treats everyone (and their schedules) equally. But there was a trade off - I'm making less here than I could elsewhere. However, I'd be working 80 hour weeks elsewhere, while here I get time off to volunteer once a month. There needs to be a way for both parents and childless workers to have a better balance between life and work. Maybe the solution is to see why people are grumbling, and then come up with solutions.

Posted by: AG | December 11, 2006 4:54 PM

I'm guessing Studentmom2be has never complained about anything in her life, since there is always someone out there whose has it worse, right? For instance, we should put up with whatever is thrown at us at work, like sexual harrassment, because we should just be happy we have a job, right? Your logic leads to little progress in making the world a better place for anyone whether it be something like flexible hours to increase a family's time together or better wages for laborers in third world countries... at least they have a job, right?

Posted by: notyetamom | December 11, 2006 4:55 PM

Those who whine because a co-worker left to attend to "personal business" usually aren't good team players. If they are unhappy and leave, it's no great loss. The folks who left for "personal business" usually pick up the slack or make up for it one way or another. If they don't, again they aren't good team players and it's no great loss if they quit. Ultimately it will all be reflected on the annual review and raises/promotions or even probations will be meted out appropriately. Things always have a way of evening out, so just do your job as best you can without worrying about your co-workers performance.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 11, 2006 4:58 PM

I also don't see why it is hubris to want to improve working situations, particularly given today's focus on improving situations for all employees, not just upper-level or parents. Just because we have it good in this country doesn't mean we shouldn't be seeking to improve things - after all, isn't it the spirit of innovation that supposedly makes the American economy so powerful?

Quark's story reminded me too of the ripple effects on day care providers etc. I remember when I worked briefly for a daycare how much of drag it was to have to work on so many holidays. But we had to because so many parents had to. I had to stay late with children when their parents had to stay late. I realize that flex time for BB employees isn't going to mean flex time for day care providers, I'm just saying that a general focus on working long hours vs reasonable hours can have far-reaching effects.

Posted by: Megan | December 11, 2006 5:00 PM

'improving situations for all employees, not just upper-level or parents'

I may have misunderstood, but it seems to me that it is about all SALARIED employees. This isn't being offered to the retail people right away. I for one will be surprised if it is offered to them.

Posted by: to Megan | December 11, 2006 5:05 PM

"How would you account for the differences in output? For example, project A may result in one end-product but requires extensive research and development before the end result is produced. Project B may result in 5 end-products but require relatively little effort to produce."

Well, making a system like that work depends on having management that is knowledgable about the work product and the difficulty/ease associated with it. If management understands the differences between the two projects, different weight can be assigned to them. I'm not a metrics person, but I know there are ways of trying to do this in a standardized fashion. But I also think that a system like that can't be truly standardized, there has to be some give and take. It's also important to account for skill. If one employee always does higher quality work, that has to be accounted for too and is not likely to fall into a standardized metric - and that is also likely to be resented by the lower-skilled employee who may not be willing to recognize the difference. But that is true in any system, I think.

Posted by: Megan | December 11, 2006 5:10 PM

"may have misunderstood, but it seems to me that it is about all SALARIED employees. This isn't being offered to the retail people right away"

Well, the article says all employees at headquarters, which for a large corporation probably includes some hourly employees and plenty of non-upper level employees regardless of whether they are hourly or salaried.

Posted by: Megan | December 11, 2006 5:25 PM

"I'm really curious what you think. Do parents make good targets for complaints? Why don't childfree employees who are expected to work late without reward complain to their bosses instead of complaining about their co-workers? Thanks for continuing the discussion."

Again thank you for your reply.

My personal belief is that Flex time is a wonderful idea for both parents and non-parents, singles and married folks alike. It is an idea that I have expressed many times on this board.

If Single folks are complaining about those who have family obligations outside of work, then they are directing their anger in the wrong place.

Personally, I think it should be just as valid to take a "mental health day" as it is to take a day off to assist with a school project or chaperone a school field trip. Unfortunately, I don't believe that is the world in which we live.

And you are correct, those people who choose to work extra hours and do end up "picking up the slack" should be compensated appropriately. This means that those people will fare better than others when bonus time and promotion time comes around.


If it is the case that the childfre folks don't raise their voice, it is probably because they are afraid of being labeled as "anti-family," "anti-child," "selfish," "bitter," or any other names that have been used to describe those of us who complain about discrimination against the child-free.

Posted by: dc | December 11, 2006 5:29 PM

To Awkward | December 11, 2006 03:58 PM :

I dunno, maybe I just assumed that they were Christian and they meant "Happy Christmas and Pentecost!"

Overanalysis is really not worth it.

Posted by: BonnySwan | December 11, 2006 6:26 PM

I agree with dc - it doesn't go over well with most bosses to go running to them with complaints about other workers - esp if the other worker is a parent who has had to leave to take care of a child. My boss is very fair and gives all time off when needed be it for a sick dog, sick parent, sick child or flooded basement. I think everyone has needed time off for one reason or another that someone else wouldn't think important.

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | December 11, 2006 8:04 PM

Adding on to the dc/Leslie discussion...

Not only is there a risk of being labled anti-family/anti-children when a childless employee complains to their boss/manager, but it can also be entirely ineffective. I had a job once in a workplace that had a nightshift, and I was one of the people who was responsible for coming in to help run employee events for the night folks. There were about five of us who were arguably fair game for coming in at night (get there at 11:15, leave around 1:30, come in late the next day), but I was the only one who was unmarried and didn't have children. I always, ALWAYS had to be the one to come in. What happened when I mentioned it to our boss? He furrowed his brow and said 'but you're the only one who doesn't have a family.' End of discussion.

I resented the fact that everyone involved was perfectly happy with a highly inequitable situation. It wouldn't have killed any of my coworkers to offer, once in a while, to come in so I didn't have to.

Posted by: pastryqueen | December 11, 2006 8:12 PM

notyetamom etc, I believe it is hubris because we all have it reasonably good here, and yet so many are whining that their well-paying jobs make them ... well, work. Sorry folks, you don't get paid to reorder your schedule so that your life is more convenient: you get paid to show up and (hopefully) be productive. If you are not productive during the "face-time," stop blaming your manager: chances are they are too busy and naively trusting to see that you aren't pulling your weight and should be contributing more. The fact that some here seem to not even recognize this and take an affront to being called on it is ironic and would be very funny if it weren't so, so sad.

Posted by: Studentmom2be | December 11, 2006 8:21 PM

DC -- Great points, thank you for sticking with this discussion instead of getting frustrated with me.

I see what you mean. I really mean this. Not being flip. I understand -- subtle prejudice is everywhere, and it works against people with kids and people with out, in slightly different ways.

Also thank you Pastry Queen for weighing in. (I love your screen name, by the way!)

I still think the anger and frustration should be directed at the employer, to try to advocate for things to be more equal. Because you are right -- there is no difference between leaving early to pick up a kid and leaving early to sing in a church choir or attend to a pet or go to Starbucks or an AA meeting or whatever. If the work is done and some people are allowed to leave EVERYONE should benefit in the same way. No other approach is fair, and resentment is inevitable and appropriate.

A more fair policy seems to be the approach Best Buy is taking, and I'm not surprised it is working.

Thanks again...

Posted by: Leslie | December 11, 2006 10:14 PM

I hope this article prompts more employers to see the light about flexible work environments. I would love to be judged for my results, not for the time I spend sitting in my chair.

Susan @ Working Moms Against Guilt
http://wmag.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Susan | December 11, 2006 11:29 PM

"And you are correct, those people who choose to work extra hours and do end up "picking up the slack" should be compensated appropriately. This means that those people will fare better than others when bonus time and promotion time comes around.

If it is the case that the childfre folks don't raise their voice, it is probably because they are afraid of being labeled as "anti-family," "anti child," "selfish," "bitter," or any other names that have been used to describe those of us who complain about discrimination against the child-free."

Well written, you've captured my thoughts on this issue better that I could.

Why does a company have to be "family friendly"? Since when is this required? It boggles my mind that *some* (not all) people have kids and then expect others to not only accomodate their choice, but work around them. Children are a choice, and a company should not have to bow to that choice.

Flex time? Great idea. But as DC pointed out, those that work more should be compensated as such, and those that work less should not complain that they are not promoted as fast or receive comparable raises.

Posted by: agree with DC | December 12, 2006 4:17 AM

Not being tied to the office is only one type of flexibility.

I would like to see the kind of flexibility that allows more part-time positions without losing proportionate benefits such as health insurance and vacation time.

Working 40-60 hour weeks under your own schedule and location may be better than 40-60 hours at the office, but I am looking for 25-35 hour weeks to be put in Monday thru Friday between the hours of 7:30 am - 5:00 pm. Core hours where you are required to be in the office 10:00 - 2:00 daily would be fine with me.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 12, 2006 7:55 AM

what is up with the "email comment" link on today's guest blog?

Posted by: scarry | December 12, 2006 8:36 AM

I was wondering the same thing, scarry...

Posted by: AG | December 12, 2006 9:58 AM

studentmom2be will make a very good corporate slave. Never ask questions, never challenge authority, never look out for yourself, never try to improve - that'll get you real far these days. All that obedience won't do diddly squat for you when the man decides to move your job elsewhere or downsize you.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 12, 2006 10:56 AM

Anon, I've been downsized in the past - big reason that I'm back in school LOL. It stinks, but oh well, that's the way the cookie crumbles. The difference between me and you is that I don't feel like I am "owed" anything b/c I am just that dang special. You are the one who is not trying to improve (you are expecting your employer to change for you) - you are simply whining b/c you want your employer to cater to your selfish whims instead of realizing you are being PAID to cater to THEIRS.

Posted by: Studentmom2be | December 12, 2006 12:00 PM

Studentmom2be, I find it offensive that you assume that anyone who pushes for employee friendly policies is lazy and whining. I've worked in a number of positions, and although I realize this sounds arrogant, I have always been considered an excellent employee and can get glowing references from all of my previous employers. I am hardworking and smart and I do good work. I also see no reason to accept poorly designed policies and I always speak up when I think something could be done better. Smart employers see that as a sign of commitment and intelligence, not whining laziness. Yes, some people are whiners. Others are sincerely interested in doing things better, and the fact that things are "reasonably good" is a poor excuse for not continuing to improve.

Employment is two-way street and it works best if both the employer and the employee are committed to doing things in the best way possible - acting as if you should just be grateful you have a job and shut your mouth is shortsighted.

Posted by: Megan | December 12, 2006 12:19 PM

Megan, I find it offensive that employees are so self-centered that they complain about having to show up at work. This isn't about pushing for better healthcare coverage or heck even a better latte machine: this is about 100 posters complaining that their managers expect them to actually show up at work instead on a daily basis. If you're a great employee, then more power to you - and chances are that you are NOT the kind of person who I am talking about. But the kind of people who want to be paid the same amount of money --- or more!!!!! --- for working 3 hours per day at home instead of 8 at their desk (see above) are the kind of people who sorry, deserve NO job.

Posted by: Studentmom2be | December 12, 2006 2:10 PM

FYI - on the front of marketplace in the Journal today, there is an article about just this topic. E&Y is apparently becoming more supportive of flextime.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 12, 2006 3:07 PM

Studentmom2be... just because someone is sitting at a desk doesn't mean they are doing work or should be paid more. Hence all the full time workers posting on this blog. Seriously, though, I think you are missing the point. I don't see people here as whining because they have to show up at work, I see them commending the flexibility in the Best Buy program. If we can recognize that there are other formulas for getting work done beyond the sit-at-a-desk-from-9-to-5 scenario, why not try it? If people recognize, as the "whiners" you refer to on this blog probably are doing, that they can get more done at a different time/environment, why not? Are you that chained to the past that you can't progress and recognize that this is simply a new strategy that may, and may not, work for many people and is at least worth the try? Who's to say that 9-5 REALLY is the best way to get more productive employees. And why shouldn't we re-order work so it is more convenient? Isn't this blog about balance? If you can rework the workplace in a way that makes it more convenient and you are still getting all your work done, WHY NOT????

Posted by: notyetamom | December 12, 2006 3:36 PM

StudentMom2Be, I think you are still completely misconstruing a lot of posts - I work from home four days a week, I work the hours that work for me (not necessarily 8-5), and I get paid an excellent salary and my boss really appreciates me.

By your standards, negotiating to work from home and have flexible hours is apparently "not wanting to show up at work." In reality in meaens I work hard and do extremely good work because in a way that is much easier on me and my family - my boss gets better work out of me because of it, and he also has much more loyalty from me than he would otherwise. It's not the one way street you paint it to be. Being a drudge at your desk is not the only way to be a good employee.

Posted by: Megan | December 12, 2006 5:15 PM

Either do your job or quit but for those of us who show up and work hard the idea that everyone should just be flexible with you just because you have kids is stupid and unfair. All this "flex time" is really just a way for people to make their work even less important. I'm sorry but you can't just stay home and work on your computer and say you did the same thing everyone who got up, went to work, handled whatever happened during the day, and left when it all was really done, did. Grow up.

Posted by: Jessi | December 20, 2006 10:13 PM

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