Working 24/7

<b>Lesley Stahl</b> On Why Americans Are Working Longer

60 Minutes visited the corporate headquarters of Best Buy, the electronics retailer, in Richfield, Minn. Employees Stacy Verstraight, Jason Dehne and Marissa Plume say that putting in 60- to 80-hour weeks got them pats on the back.

"You know, you'd send an e-mail at nine o'clock at night. And the next thing your co-workers would say, 'Hey, wow, were you working that whole time? Wow. Great job,'" says Marissa.

But if you weren't there at the crack of dawn, you were put down.

"You know, if I come in at nine o'clock or 10 o'clock, I was at a doctor's appointment, you know, people are saying, 'Oh gee. Glad you could show up today.' You know, so it felt [like] a little bit of a dig," says Stacy. "And people were just watching other people. So it felt like a lot of unnecessary pressure."

"I canceled booked vacations. I mean I booked vacations, and I'd cancel 'em because I had to work," Jason recalls.

In 2002, after a jump in people quitting and filing stress-related health claims, Best Buy launched an experiment: Employees would be allowed to work wherever and whenever they wanted, as long as they got their jobs done.

That means the unit that Chap Achen manages often looks like a ghost town.

"Some folks literally don't come in the office for weeks at a time," says Achen.

If asked where a specific employee physically is, Achen says he doesn't know. "I couldn't tell you if he was in his basement or he was at a Starbucks with a wireless connection."

Since the Best Buy experiment started, Jason's health has improved. Normally at his desk by 7:30 a.m., he now jogs to his local coffee shop and takes his 8 a.m. conference call by cell phone.

Marissa, a night owl, now does her best work around midnight from her bedroom.

"I have to trust that my team is going to get the work done in this environment," says Achen. "And the ironic thing about it is that it's that trust factor that actually makes them work harder for you."

"And just as long?" Stahl asked

"And just as long," he replied.

Or longer. Stacy, Jason and Marissa say they often work more hours than they did before. Not a bad deal for the company. Productivity among employees in the program has jumped a healthy 35 percent.

"We can spread out our work over seven days of the week," explains Stacy.

Asked why that's a positive, Jason says, "It's the way I choose to work."

"But if it takes 70 hours to do your job, why doesn't Best Buy go hire more people?" Stahl asked.

"You know, I am a happier employee, with the trust," says Stacy.

Asked if she wants to work the 70 hours, Stacy replied, "I love what I do."

The group all said they didn't think they were working too much w
Produced by Karen Sughrue