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Video: What Works: Letting employees choose

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/15/2007 7:30:14 PM ET 2007-03-15T23:30:14

How often have you sat at work and done almost no work? Well, there's a movement emerging in corporate America: Major companies are starting to see a real value in giving large numbers of workers control — in some cases complete control — over when and where they work. As long as the work gets done. And it seems to be affecting bottom lines for the better.

In a world of 9-to-nighttime, day after day, Jason Dehne now works when he wants, where he wants.

"Work is something you do," says Dehne, a finance manager with Best Buy. "It's not a place that you go to."

On a lot of days you'll find Dehne's cubicle empty. Same for about 70 percent of Best Buy corporate. The company has invented a system called ROWE — Results-Only Work Environment —  in which you go to the office only when you want to. The end result — how much you get done — is all that matters.

"I no longer think of it as 'Oh, I've got to go to work,' but 'Oh, I get to go to work!'" Dehne says.

Best Buy says productivity has jumped 35 percent, with turnover and low morale all but gone.

"Workers in their 20s and 30s who have seen all of us work so hard and so inflexibly say, 'I don't want my mother's or father's job,'" says Phyllis Moen, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota.

A number of companies are now exploring this idea. At Sun Microsystems they've saved some $400 million in real estate costs by allowing nearly half of all employees to work anywhere they want. And at IBM, on any given day 42 percent of the global workforce does not go to the workplace.

Scientist Tom Zimmerman starts the day with his son — a swim, a cafe, then the lab. By afternoon, he's out again, teaching high school kids to build guitars.

"To me, flexible time is like breathing," he says. "It lets you inhale as much as you want and exhale as much as you want."

He says he gets more done and has a fuller life — guilt-free. Not your grandfather's schedule.

"It really changes the way you think about your life," says Best Buy's Dehne. "Work is part of your life."

And the world your office.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

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