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Best Buy Follows Yahoo in Banning Remote Work 317

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-retailing-from-your-garage dept.
bednarz writes "Is telecommuting the new scapegoat for poor performance? Best Buy, in the midst of a corporate restructuring, has canceled its flexible work program and expects corporate employees to put in traditional 40-hour work weeks at the retailer's headquarters (they used to be able to work whenever and wherever they wanted). The announcement comes on the heels of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to end telecommuting, which ignited a firestorm of criticism. It also follows news of Best Buy's plans to lay off 400 corporate workers as part of a plan to cut $725 million in costs and restructure its business. This could signal the beginning of a trend, or be an indication that telecommuters need to actively justify their preference for working outside the office."
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Best Buy Follows Yahoo in Banning Remote Work

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  • by ModernGeek (601932) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:50PM (#43085105) Homepage
    This is a terrible move by a dying entity that is showing its irrelevance by going back further into the dark ages.
    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:53PM (#43085151) Homepage

      Are you referring to Best Buy or Yahoo?

      • by afidel (530433) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:01PM (#43085263)

        Yes

        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:26PM (#43085593)

          Yes

          Indeed. BestBuy has been closing stores and laying off. I have a Yahoo! account, and haven't noticed any improvement in years. I started using their email service in 1998. Three minutes later I realized that, although I could put mail in folders, there was no way to create sub-folders. So I could have a folder for "Friends", but I could not have a folder for "Friends/Joe" and "Friends/Betty". I didn't see how that could work for any serious email user, so I sent off an email, and received a response that said plenty of people had asked, and it was a "top priority". Today, fifteen years and fourteen thousand employees later, still no sub-folders. I am curious what any of these employees actually do.

           

          • by Exitar (809068) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @08:39PM (#43086605)

            The didn't implement subfolders because they were slacking at home!
            But now that they will be forced to work at their HQ, no user will ever complain anymore!

            • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @04:09AM (#43090033)

              But now that they will be forced to work at their HQ, no user will ever complain anymore!

              Yeah, the shock change in the corporate culture as thousands of telecommuters either relocate, lose their job, or suddenly start seeing people in real life that they'd largely only interacted with online will surely not have any significant impact on business process.

              Reminds me of another company I worked at where an executive declared that 2/3rds of all IT must be outsourced, and then fled for "unspecified personal reasons" from their position nine months later. Meanwhile, the IT infrastructure fell down around everyone's heads, and the replacement workers, having been suddenly thrust into positions without any knowledge transfer or documentation by the previous crew, struggled to reinvent the wheel to disasterous effect.

              Whenever you see an executive make a bold and unseasonable move in the company that promises to have far-reaching implications, and there isn't a clear and unambiguous reason for it beyond "I read it in a trade mag!" or "everyone else is doing it!" I have one word for you: Run. Run fast. Run very fast. Run like you're in Pompeii on volcano day, because baby, shit's about to get hot and explosive in short order and you don't wanna be one of the screaming villagers on fire n shit when it happens.

    • by Radres (776901) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:54PM (#43085171)

      It's just a way to lay people off without having to pay severance.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Pretty much this.. more extreme form of "Casual dress code is being removed for more 'professionalism' " only to be returned to after layoffs are complete.

        • by jrumney (197329) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @08:34PM (#43086551) Homepage

          Any management that tries these techniques needs to be fired by the shareholders immediately. The people who leave voluntarily when pushed by these types of harassment are always the most valuable ones, who funnily enough find it easy to get a job elsewhere. The ones you're left with are the ones who are pulling you down in the first place (along with the management team, who are obviously deficient if they think reducing headcount is all that matters in saving their ass).

          • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:49PM (#43087409)

            Hush now, you're implying that employees aren't fungible. If they had some unique value they'd be rich, and/or a CEO of something. If your job is "HW Engineer, Senior" you're just a lazy old guy who blackmailed the right middle managers into keeping his job.

          • by c0lo (1497653) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:07PM (#43087603)

            Any management that tries these techniques needs to be fired by the shareholders immediately. The people who leave voluntarily when pushed by these types of harassment are always the most valuable ones, who funnily enough find it easy to get a job elsewhere. The ones you're left with are the ones who are pulling you down in the first place (along with the management team, who are obviously deficient if they think reducing headcount is all that matters in saving their ass).

            It bears a name: it's called Dead Sea effect [brucefwebster.com].
            After a while, you know for sure which employees you don't want to have: the ones that are still with you... So the best you can do: fire them and close the business.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      I would like to see some evidence of that, rather than what I have seen in response to yahoo's decision - which is an outcry by people who telecommute and want to continue to telecommute, mainly for personal reasons.

      I work with people who telecommute. It is a justifiable accommodation for an especially good performer who would otherwise have to leave. But from my perspective, it doesn't seem as good as having the same person nearby, when that is possible to do.

      • by Radres (776901) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:03PM (#43085297)

        There is no need for evidence, it's pretty obvious that if you tell your employees who live 1,000 miles away to either come into the office or quit, a good number of those will quit.

        To the contrary, what is the evidence that remote employees perform worse than local? Why do we need more office space and people commuting generating pollution and congestion on our roads?

        What industry do you work in and what occupation? I'm sure certain fields are more workable remote than others.

        The problem with having it be a "justifiable accommodation for an especially good performer" is that everyone thinks that they are good performers and everyone will think they deserve it. It's either all or nothing.

        • by the_B0fh (208483)

          You live in a black or white world? No shades?

          There are people for whom telecommuting works. I have one great one, working thousands of miles away.
          There are people for whom telecommuting does not work. I had one who was in another office, away from the rest of the team.

          My team can work from home any time they want to. But the office is the primary work location.

          • by tompaulco (629533)
            Our company has people who telecommute and they seem to work. Actually, they mostly just tell other people what to do, but that seems to be good enough for the company. They just fired another person who telecommuted and actually DID work. And then there are of course, the people who show up every day for work, but don't work. Like we have people who show up at 10, leave at 4 and go run errands 3 or 4 times a day. These sort of people earned us "the talk" last week, about how we have to be professional and
            • by rtb61 (674572)

              In the end it all boils down to what kind of company you are. If you are an internet company selling technological solutions and you public fail at telecommuting something you should be logically selling to others, well, then you are public incompetent and not to be relied upon for anything. M$ always talked about eating it's own dogfood for good reason, failure to do so cripples your marketing.

              So the global message released by Yahoo, 'WE ARE INCOMPETENT AT TELECOMMUTING" screamed loud and clear to all t

          • Sounds like employees in general. Some are great, some are poor. Get rid of the losers and bring in the performers. If bringing in is hard, then you have to use other means to get something out of the losers.

            Where they are physically located is moot.

        • by Dogtanian (588974)

          There is no need for evidence, it's pretty obvious that if you tell your employees who live 1,000 miles away to either come into the office or quit, a good number of those will quit.

          If it was transparent that this was the intention, wouldn't that make it constructive dismissal [wikipedia.org]? Or could they weasel out of that by pointing out that it wasn't aimed at any *specific* employee, or that it was in the contract, or whatever?

          • There is no need for evidence, it's pretty obvious that if you tell your employees who live 1,000 miles away to either come into the office or quit, a good number of those will quit.

            If it was transparent that this was the intention, wouldn't that make it constructive dismissal [wikipedia.org]? Or could they weasel out of that by pointing out that it wasn't aimed at any *specific* employee, or that it was in the contract, or whatever?

            They are, however, potentially imposing these onerous terms on members of a protected class of employees. Think about the reasons somebody might choose to telecommute: Young children needing after school care, elderly parent living out of state... Single moms garner lots of sympathy in court and at the unemployment office. Ditto the angelic, devoted son or daughter working at home to be close to an ailing elderly parent.

            If they're really doing this to avoid severance, unemployment, and wrongful termination

      • I tend to agree. At my office a large number of employees live locally but work remotely often and it can be a big hassle when I need to get answers from them.
        • "I tend to agree. At my office a large number of employees live locally but work remotely often and it can be a big hassle when I need to get answers from them."

          Then it isn't being done right. If your office has a proper telecommute setup, the remote workers should never be more than an IM or Campfire message away, and respond as immediately as they would if they were in the office.

          I worked in an office in which it was often easier and faster to get an answer from a worker in another state than from someone two desks over.

          • Or email. Email works. IM is just as obnoxious as showing up at my cube. If you find yourself annoyed that someone wasn't physically there, YOU are broken. Send email. If the person doesn't reply right away, assume that means he's in the middle of something and will get back to you shortly.

            Email is a great tool, IM is never a replacement for email, IM is for conversation. E-mail is for questions.

            • Yes, email works, too. Or should, anyway. I didn't mention email because people might get the wrong impression.

              But there are occasions in which real-time collaboration is necessary, and at those times email can be awkward. IM is usually a bit more immediate.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The tools are there to help you - email, instant messaging, and voice and video chat. When I worked in an office, i would say about 30% of my day was spent on actual work, the rest was constant interruptions. I need to be in my zone to function. Once I started working remotely, my productivity level skyrocketed. Since most medium to large companies have a global workforce, the vast majority of knowledge workers are remote anyways. I deal with folks in India, China, Germany, and three time zones in the Unite

      • by Above (100351)

        I got forced into telecommuting years ago, and have been doing it ever since. To answer your question, there are two factors that determine if remote work is productive:

        * The job you're doing.
        * The manager.

        Some jobs demand being in an office. Some jobs are more productive at home. Most are a grey area, some aspects are better at home, some are better in the office. When it comes to the grey area, the manger is the single biggest influence; they need to understand remote working and make an effort to mak

        • by tompaulco (629533)
          That said, since this is a blanket ban I'm sure the baby is being thrown out with the bath water.
          In attrition layoffs, ONLY the baby is thrown out. The bathwater is kept.
          • That's a ridiculous statement. In attrition layoffs, bits of the baby and the bathwater are thrown out.

            You do this because either a) you're a total moron, or b) you're so broke you can't afford performance based layoffs and will accept cost reduction regardless of price.

             

      • "I work with people who telecommute. It is a justifiable accommodation for an especially good performer who would otherwise have to leave. But from my perspective, it doesn't seem as good as having the same person nearby, when that is possible to do."

        You are only looking at a very narrow segment of the job market. I am a freelance programmer and web developer. My job is 100% telecommute, all the time. (I have done lots of work for people in other states and outside the country, for example.)

        In most cases there is no reason to hire someone full-time to do my job. So an on-site requirement would make no sense.

      • But from my perspective, it doesn't seem as good as having the same person nearby, when that is possible to do.

        Then I'd wonder if there is something wrong with HOW you work such that having the person nearby on demand is useful. Because, as a hardware guy, I HAVE to work from work most of hte time. And I get really annoyed and angry at people who interrupt me all the time to ask me inane questions. That's what email is for, I will respond when I reach a stopping point that is convenient for me.

        There are j

    • . . . claim every Linux user owes them $699, and then sue IBM . . .

      Sounds like a fine business plan.

    • This is a terrible move by a dying entity that is showing its irrelevance by going back further into the dark ages.

      Worse than that... Shopping at Best Buy would be a lot more pleasant if they allowed more of their employees to work somewhere other than on site. No, I don't want the extended protection plan.

  • As a former Employee (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:54PM (#43085165)

    I can tell you Best Buy treats their employees like total crap. I did not work in a retail store, I worked in one of their service centers. Worst run company ever. They actually had a VP come down one week and tell us we needed to tape yellow lanes on the floor to tell people where to walk and then 3 weeks later another VP came down and made them change it to red tape, then 2 months later another VP came down and wanted all the lines moved because he didn't think it was clear which areas were for walking and which areas were work areas. Ridiculous.

    • by game kid (805301) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:23PM (#43085555) Homepage

      Seems the tape was red [wikipedia.org] long before they settled on the color.

    • I suppose the yellow tape was meant to divide the corridors into two lanes,
      so the employees who leave a little early don't bump into the ones that
      arrive a little late.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Sounds familiar. I know of several fortune 250 companies who have VP's and plant managers who go out making work for people. An example, they went out and made them put up signs for posts, walls, lanes, doors, and so on. So the workers did so. Then carried on, putting up signs for the roof, walls, bathrooms, and so on in order to mock the stupidity of these people.

      One thing that never really gets old is management thinking that their workers are dumb. Especially management that's never actually worked

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      hey actually had a VP come down one week and tell us we needed to tape yellow lanes on the floor to tell people where to walk and then 3 weeks later another VP came down and made them change it to red tape, then 2 months later another VP came down and wanted all the lines moved because he didn't think it was clear which areas were for walking and which areas were work areas. Ridiculous.

      [VP 1]: The red zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in the yellow zone.
      [VP

  • Real motive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by asmkm22 (1902712) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:54PM (#43085181)

    has nothing to do with working from home. They need to get rid of a bunch of employees and this gives them a way of doing so without actually having a reason to fire them. They know a certain percentage won't be able to work locally, and will have to "voluntarily" quit.

    • Yup, this is it.
      Whenever a company needs to cut jobs via layoffs, things like this allow them to take advantage of attrition without having to pay severance.

    • Re:Real motive (Score:5, Informative)

      by Whatsisname (891214) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:11PM (#43085403) Homepage

      Best Buy is headquartered in Minnesota, an at-will employment state. They can eliminate anyone at any time for any reason, and don't need a bogus excuse to do so.

      • Being able to fire at any time doesn't mean that employees do it.
        I live and work in Minnesota and companies here do RIFs (reduction in force) all the time with severance payouts. If they can get people to leave on their own, that's one less severance package to pay. There are plenty of good reasons why companies pay out severance even if they don't have to. But if they can get away with paying out less than they have to, great.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        I don't know Minnesota's local laws, but if they are like California (also a at-will) state, the company has to pay extra unemployment taxes for every person that makes a unemployment claim. If the employee quits, the company doesn't have to pay those extra taxes. It is common here in California to "encourage empoloyees to quit" instead of firing them. I assume it is the same in Minnesota.

        Not allowing remote workers is the new way for companies to signal that they going bankrupt and they no longer fee
        • I don't know Minnesota's local laws, but if they are like California (also a at-will) state, the company has to pay extra unemployment taxes for every person that makes a unemployment claim. If the employee quits, the company doesn't have to pay those extra taxes.

          Correct, un-employment insurance has a federal component that is the same everywhere. There are state components but they tend to vary in the taxation percentage not the reasons for collecting it.

          Also, every state in the union is "at-will" with only minor differences in the details. OP probably confused at-will with right-to-work which is the legal principle that an employer can not force an employee to join a union as a prerequisite for being hired. Right-to-work doesn't really apply here either, but it

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        In at-will states you can eliminate anyONE at any time for NO reason. From a legal standpoint, a company should never have a reason to fire someone, because that reason may turn out to be invalid in a lawsuit. There are also labor laws about terminating a lot of people which require notice periods, and depending on the state and any union regulations, may also require severance packages, retraining or other benefits. Firing a lot of people also introduces lack of confidence in the company (although it usual
    • by sjames (1099)

      It's similar to my rule of thumb when judging the health of a datacenter. When the sci-fi posters sudden''y come off of the walls in the office and tech areas, start planning your move, the ship is sinking and management is determined to take it out on everyone under them.

  • Where are the environmentalists who should be protesting the increase in the use of resources, especially petroleum products, that will be required when all these employees return to an office? Especially when many of them took the job under the betrayed promise that they would not have to often commute to an office that was perhaps an hour or more away?
  • wondering aloud... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:58PM (#43085229) Homepage Journal

    I just wonder if any agreements were made with employees at either Yahoo or BB that they would be allowed to do a certain amount of their work remotely.

    Again.. it goes back to the current American belief that it's okay for a corporation to break their word or contract with an individual but absolutely wrong when it's vice versa...

    • I'm not sure this is so much an American belief as something American corporations would desperately like their customers to believe.

      • There is virtually no public outcry when a corporation violates their contracts with their employees in the U.S. That's why I make the statement. I can't speak for other countries that I don't live in.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          The traditional example of this would be that if you don't give notice, the company will try to blackball you from working by telling anyone calling for a reference that you did not give notice. On the other hand, they have no problems firing employees at 4:50 on Friday, telling them not to come in Monday. That, or when insisting that employees give notice, they respond to that courtesy by firing the employee at the end of that day if not escorting them out immediately.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:59PM (#43085237)

    Look at the history of companies like DEC, Compaq, Dell, the list goes on an on.

    They all did great until MBAs and Investment Bankers got control.

    Then the value was squeezed out and the carcass disgarded.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      To be fair, those companies were on their way out before said financial minds took over.
    • by T-Ranger (10520)
      DEC is a great counterexample to "business interests" destroying a technology company. In fact, it was a company with great technology products which the market just didn't care about. An MBA in charge would have said "Skip this VMS shit, boys"
  • What firestorm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spy Handler (822350) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:01PM (#43085259) Homepage Journal

    Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to end telecommuting, which ignited a firestorm of criticism.

    There was no firestorm, just whining from unproductive Yahoo employees and media parasites.

    Perhaps they didn't get the memo, but Google (which is what Yahoo wishes it was, and is where every Yahoo employee wishes he/she was working at) doesn't allow telecommuting either. Marissa was just putting in place policies that worked for Google.

  • Did you miss the news a while back about productivity levels having peaked? So now the weaker Corporations, faced with losing their least politically-damaging method of squeezing up short-term profit, are trying anything they can to shore up productivity.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Its a great way to lay off people without saying its a layoff, or paying for unemployment since quitting would mean no way to collect it.

  • by bobstreo (1320787) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:04PM (#43085307)

    Work exactly 40 hours per week, and not at all from home.

    • If I had to do this, my employer would find they'd end up getting significantly less work out of me. I end up doing a fair bit on "my own time".

      But fortunately my bosses seem to understand the value of letting me work from home occasionally.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:05PM (#43085323)
    Person sits at desk from 9-6. Person taps keys. Appears to be breathing. It tells you nothing about whether they're doing their work, so if you can't tell by other means, you're an incompetent employer. And if you can tell by other means, then there's no problem with telecommuting.
  • by guanxi (216397) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:08PM (#43085373)

    Should Slashdot include a disclaimer when linking to a corporate sister?

    In case you don't know, Slashdot is owned by Dice Holdings (see the bottom left of the page you are reading), which also owns this link from the front page story:
    http://news.dice.com/2013/03/05/yahoos-telecommuting-policy-could-find-fanboy-ceos/ [dice.com]

    • by Jerslan (1088525)
      If I could I would mod this up.... I think the Slashdot editors should be obligated to stick a disclaimer in the summary when a link goes to a sister site (even when it was a user submitted summary/link).
  • Best buy has had poor management for years. Maybe makeing big changes will save them.

    Now the stores need to move off of judging people on how much they can sell and let them help people not up sell them till they walk out.

    • by BLToday (1777712)

      Big changes? You mean like better customer service, good pricing, and management that doesn't have a burning hatred for customers? That's way too big of a change for Best Buy. I remember when they started to implement their "Angels and Demons" policy, that made me to never go Best Buy except when they have the absolute best price on something I want. I use to browse Best Buy all the time while waiting for my girlfriend to shop. I always ended up spending $10-$20 on random things I didn't need. Now, it

  • I was never gonna work at either place, anyway. But now I do have to worry more that someone will try to upsell me to a 3 year warranty plan in person.

  • by Wister285 (185087) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:19PM (#43085507) Homepage

    Does anyone seem to realize that work from home is not being banned, but PERMANENTLY working from home? There is a huge difference. Casual work from home is much different than never seeing your coworkers. Is permanent working from home a scapegoat? Perhaps, but it's not unreasonable that troubled companies need all hands on deck while at their most vulnerable.

  • by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:20PM (#43085517)
    Keep a bullet proof lab book with verifiable work and you'll be fine. The issue is that no one tracks what work they do so months after you finish everything there is no trace. Hence telecommuting looks back because how do you know who does any work. On the other hand if you can hand over a well kept book that is documented about the work you've completed then you look fine.
  • Where they pulling lots of overtime at home?

    Had lot's of downtime?

  • by Saxophonist (937341) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @07:28PM (#43085615)

    Best Buy headquarters is in one of the areas of the Twin Cities metro with the worst traffic congestion already, and it is not well-served by public transit. Public policy in Minnesota is starting to tend toward encouraging more remote work and/or flexibility because the cost of maintaining and upgrading roads and transit is becoming unaffordable. I don't know about other areas of employment, but competent programmers are not usually having trouble finding work in the Twin Cities metro. Granted, many of Best Buy's developers are contractors anyway.

    This move is likely just to drive away people with other options, and with a company that's already a sinking ship, it's certainly going the wrong direction.

  • Does anyone really want to work for Best Buy? Or for matter Yahoo?

    These are companies that are 20 years behind the leaders. Go to work for them and you will always be sitting around waiting for the defenestration.

    These new polices are just a message to the wise - time to find a better employer.

  • of thing as cost saving when they are desperately looking for buyers.

  • So does this mean I'll actually be able to find a sales guy, since they won't be working from home?
    Just kidding...I would never shop at a best buy.
  • They know they need to lay off people, so how do you select who to keep?

    I suspect this move to eliminate remote work will cause some employees to quit (cheaper for the company than a layoff). The ones that come in, but bitch about it will be labeled non-team-players and eliminated next.

    I've seen some places that simply made life unbearable to see who would put up with shit. Making people quit is cheaper than a layoff. BTW, that company failed badly. I was happy to hear the asshole boss lost everything w

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