Working When and Where You Want

Oct. 3, 2005 — -- Brian Lucas has a demanding job as a public relations manager for electronics and appliance retailer Best Buy. He also has a baby, a toddler and a wife with cancer who needs frequent trips to the doctor.

The stress is so intense, he considered taking a leave until Best Buy told him he could work when -- and where -- he wants.

"People trust the fact that if I'm not at my desk, there's a good reason I'm not at my desk," Lucas said. "I don't have to show my face in the office a certain number of hours to make sure people know I'm working."

Lucas's car isn't the only one missing from the office parking lot. Human relations director Leanne Andersen was playing ball with her kids one recent day.

"You have the flexibility to make choices across your entire life," Andersen said. "And you're not trying to compartmentalize, like in my case, my family and my work as two separate things."

A Radical Experiment

More than 2,000 employees at the company's corporate headquarters in Minneapolis now come and go as they please. It's part of a radical experiment the company calls ROWE: Results Oriented Work Environment, which basically means work when you want to -- just get the work done.

"It's about the results, not the time it takes someone to get those results," said Cali Ressler, ROWE coordinator for Best Buy.

Best Buy claims productivity has increased 13 percent since it introduced ROWE two years ago -- a welcome surprise to department heads, such as manager Chap Achen, who feared flex time run amuck.

Now he's a big fan of the program. "You can find a performance problem a lot faster on this program," Achen said, "because that's all you're looking for is performance. You can't see 'em in the chair.

It's one thing to let a couple of thousand employees behind the scenes at corporate headquarters come and go as they please. But 100,000 workers, cashiers and sales clerks making their own hours?

Ressler says that's the company's next goal -- and it can work. "We need to trust that when we give our retail employees a scenario -- store opens at this time, store closes at this time -- we need to trust that they will do what's right," she said, though she's hard-pressed to explain how it will work.

"Our retail store test will be tough, yes," she said.

In the meantime, Lucas is able to help his wife through a hard time, and Andersen is batting a thousand with her son.

"This year I made every little league game my son played," she said.

And she got all her work done, too.

ABC News' Betsy Stark reported this story for World News Tonight.