What Are Results-Only Work Environments (ROWE)?

By Eric Dickmann

June 6, 2019

Alternative Work Program, People, Results-Only Work Environment, ROWE

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.

The Goal of a Results-Only Work Environment

ROWE's goal is to boost employee productivity and get the best talent. If employees can work when and where they feel most productive, they are more productive. Also, it can help increase employee accountability, job satisfaction, and company loyalty.

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 list of companies recently adopting ROWE:

Companies-Adopting-ROWE-Resized



Overview of Results-Only Work Environment

  • 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.

The Pros and Cons of ROWE

Below, is a basic list of the pros and cons of ROWE:

Pros:
  • 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
Cons:
  • 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

Conclusion

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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About the author

Eric Dickmann is the founder of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast - The Virtual CMO, and a CMO On Demand 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 and bring innovative products to the market.

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