By Eric Dickmann

March 15, 2023


Traditional management models no longer fit today's technology and information age. More employers are giving employees the freedom to do their job, when and where they want, as long as the work gets done. This is the management strategy called ROWE - Results-Only Work Environment. ROWE is a strategy wherein employees get paid for results rather than the number of hours worked. It begins to replace the 9-to-5 as it can increase productivity while lowering the work cost. So, it is a win-win for both employers and employees.

Overview of Results-Only Work Environment

A results-only work environment, or ROWE, is a work culture that prioritizes outcomes over time spent on tasks. In a ROWE, employees are given the freedom to work whenever and wherever they want, as long as they meet their goals and objectives. This approach values flexibility and trust, as well as the ability to measure and evaluate performance based on tangible results. ROWE is becoming increasingly popular as a way to attract and retain top talent, promote work-life balance, and increase productivity and creativity. However, implementing a ROWE requires careful planning and communication to ensure that expectations and goals are clear, and that employees are held accountable for delivering results.

  • ROWE is a modified flexible work arrangement: Flexible work arrangement offers a set of limited options that require permission. It's management-controlled and requires policies and guidelines. The focus is "time off" and there's high demand but low control. ROWE offers unlimited options without needing management permission. It's employee controlled requiring accountability and clear goals. The focus is on "results," and there is high demand but also high control.
  • ROWE is an adaptive change: It requires both a personal and organizational mindset shift to succeed. It comes with changes in procedural structures and management activities in organizations. It requires a structure enabling data access from any location of choice.
  • There are situations where ROWE is not appropriate: ROWE might not work for a customer service department or if there's a new or inexperienced employee requiring more support. Retail and service position workers must still do their work at an office location as well.

Results-Only Work Environment:

  • No permission needed
  • Unlimited - fluid
  • Employee managed
  • Requires accountability / clear goals
  • Focus on "results"
  • High demand / high control

Flexible Work Arrangement:

  • Permission required
  • Limited options - inflexible
  • Management controlled
  • Requires policies / guidelines
  • Focus on "time off"
  • High demand / low control

The Goal of a Results-Only Work Environment

The goals of a results-only work environment (ROWE) are to focus on the outcomes of work rather than the process of completing it. This means that employees are given the freedom to work when and where they choose, as long as they meet their goals and deadlines. The primary goal of a ROWE is to increase productivity and employee satisfaction, as employees are able to work in a way that suits their individual needs and preferences. A ROWE also aims to reduce stress and burnout, as employees are not tied to a rigid schedule or location. Ultimately, the goal of a ROWE is to create a more flexible and adaptable work environment that can respond to the changing needs of both employees and the business.

The Pros and Cons of ROWE


  • ROWE needs less physical space because fewer employees spend time in the office
  • Employees use fewer sick days and take less time off. It's because they can better workaround appointments, illnesses, and other events
  • Employees are healthier, happier, and have less work-related stress
  • ROWE saves both energy and commuting expenses
  • ROWE increases employee satisfaction. It decreases employee turnover, thereby reducing hiring and onboarding costs
  • Companies that succeed in putting ROWE in place report a major increase in productivity


  • ROWE can be difficult to manage. It’s often harder to communicate with remote employees who work varying schedules
  • ROWE opens up the possibility of unethical behavior. The value is only measured in results – not how they're reached
  • Employees lacking self-discipline or self-motivation may not succeed in ROWE workplaces
  • ROWE doesn’t work for everyone. It’s impossible for consumer-facing fields like customer service or retail. It is also difficult to implement in highly collaborative companies


The pros of a ROWE include increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and work-life balance. When employees are given the freedom to work when and where they want, they are more likely to be happy and motivated, leading to higher productivity. Additionally, a ROWE allows employees to balance their work and personal life better, leading to less stress and burnout. However, there are also cons to a ROWE. It can be challenging to manage and measure productivity, and some employees may take advantage of the flexibility and not put in enough effort. Additionally, a ROWE may not be suitable for all types of jobs or industries, such as those that require a physical presence or a set schedule.

Advantages and Disadvantages of ROWE

A ROWE in the “New Normal”

This pandemic has greatly affected businesses with a traditional workplace who follows the standard work schedules. Most businesses have shifted to a mobile setup in which their teams can work from home for the same amount of hours. So far, remote work been proven effective by many employers since a lot of workers are able to work at their own pace and focus their efforts in the tasks at hand rather than worrying about the commonly thought things, such as- transportation and food. Having a ROWE work setup especially during this time of pandemic, not only assures a safe and healthy team, but also promotes a productive and motivated atmosphere. Along with the comfortable benefits of a ROWE, come the risks of miscommunication and lackluster performance. MindTools shares some strategies to overcome these hurdles:

  • Recruit professional and conscientious people- To aid your company’s growth, you must hire people who are as dedicated as yourself. Recruit people who can give your team the consistent values needed in order to achieve success. Unmotivated and unfocused workers may not be well-suited for the ROWE setup where there is less supervision.
  • Trust in the workplace- Even if the ROWE setup highly depends on results to keep the system going, it is still crucial for you as the employer to help your team stay motivated by providing them with the fair amount of benefits and compensation and being open to them whenever they have questions or concerns. Even if the team is far apart or is in different time zones, the company should still promote socialization after work hours and quick responses when needed.
  • Clearly define job descriptions- For you to drive positive results, everyone needs to stay on the same page. Members need to understand what they have to contribute to the project and how they can further contribute to the workplace. It is understandable that there and then they be tasked with responsibilities that are out of their comfort zone, but that is where you as a business leader should come in and motivate them throughout the process.
  • Set consistent, clear, and measurable goals- In the ROWE’s standards, an employee’s performance is measured by how well and effective they meet the company’s goals and objectives. As you hand out the tasks to each team member, explain to them your standards and how you want to see things turn out. Having a format and expectations in place shall give them a clear picture of how to accomplish each of their responsibilities. Do not overwhelm them with deadlines and notify them instantly when you need specific tasks to be accomplished immediately.
  • Regularly monitor your team’s performance- Don’t expect tasks to always come out perfect on the first try. Whenever there is a chance to help your team members grow, take it. Instead of calling people out because of their minor or major task errors, use that opportunity to instruct them on how it should be done. Keep in mind that errors happen in whatever work setup. It’s your responsibility as the team leader to help them become better employees and more efficient contributors.
5 Ways to Create a Positive Workplace

Who Uses ROWE?

Results-Only Work Environment began in 2011 when an executive leader at Best Buy decided the company needed to be a top choice for recruiting the best talent. Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson created a survey of what the employees wanted most from work. It received a unanimous response: "trust me with my time". Based on the results, they came up with the Alternative Work Program - a choice of flexible schedules for employees. This program finally came to be known as ROWE.

Today, a large number of companies use ROWE to create a more engaged company culture. Here's a sample list of companies using ROWE.


A Results-Only Work Environment is a novel concept. It could have a big impact on productivity, efficiency, and employee satisfaction. Yet, it isn't right for every organization. What's most important to determine whether ROWE will work for you is knowing your business needs and your employee's ability to focus on results.

Learn more about how to setup a Results-Only Work Environment.

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Eric Dickmann

About the author

Eric Dickmann is the Founder / CMO of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast "The Virtual CMO" and YouTube series "Work-Life" and a fractional CMO for a variety of small and midsize companies. An executive leader with over 30 years of experience in marketing, product development, and digital transformation, he has worked with large, global companies and small startups to develop and execute marketing strategies to bring innovative products to the market.

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