rowe

Can a Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE) ever work?

On paper, a Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE) sounds ideal

Rather than working a typical 40-hour week in the office, you can come and go from your office as you please, there are no obligatory meetings and you aren’t even required to come into the office at all if you don’t fancy it.

It works by measuring the performance and output of employees, rather than the hours they work or their presence in the office. It’s simple really; employees have complete freedom when it comes to their projects and complete independence in meeting their targets.

ROWE was founded in 2003 by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson as a solid business platform. Due to their work, relationships between managers and employees are transformed to one which is based on trust, accountability and results.

According to Ressler and Thompson, ROWE can increase productivity for 40% of workers, whilst 78% less sick days are taken when it’s implemented in the workplace. However, 77% more workers get sacked due to this working style because if you don’t produce, you’re gone.

But how can you manage someone when they aren’t in the office? Can you always trust your employees? How can you ensure they’re being productive? Realistically, can a Results Oriented Work Environment ever work? Read on to find out:

  • How can ROWE benefit the workplace?
  • The disadvantages of ROWE
  • Can ROWE work within your workplace?

 

How can ROWE benefit the workplace?

Happier employees

Business are always looking for the cheapest ways to improve employee retention. One way to do this is to introduce more flexible working patterns. According to research by Investors in People, a third (34%) of employees would prefer a more flexible approach to working hours than a 3% pay rise. This is particularly important for working parents, who want to spend more time with their children, and its useful for those who want to avoid a stressful commute.

ROWE gives employees the flexibility and choice they want. It lets them decide how and when they will complete their work and takes the weight off when they have a doctor’s appointment or need to leave early for their child’s school play. Many employers don’t offer the benefit of flexibility, so employees who have it aren’t likely to leave it behind.

Productivity

According to research by Gallup, only 13% of employees worldwide are actually engaged in their jobs, meaning they “work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.”

However, it also means 87% are unengaged, which Gallup describe as “essentially checked out” or they are actively disengaged, meaning they “aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness.”

This results in employees completing their work at a bad standard, rather than working to the best of their abilities. If an employee needs to produce work within a particular deadline, ROWE allows them to focus on this project without getting hassled in the office. They can also spend more time concentrating on a task rather than disengaging from their work.

Motivation

When employees’ efforts go unnoticed, they are less motivated to work well. The same goes for when they are forced to share credit with someone who hasn’t contributed much and has just come along for the ride. As ROWE measures work on results, employees are more enticed to do well as they get awarded on their individual output.

The disadvantages of ROWE

Although there are clear advantages of adopting ROWE within your workplace, there are some draw backs.

Loss of collaboration

In a ROWE work environment, there aren’t many employees in the office and face-to-face meetings are a rarity. When you work in an office, discussing a project could be as easy as popping over to someone’s desk or a quick chat while you make a coffee. When you try to replicate this on email it doesn’t work quite as well.

Collaboration tools do make it easier to communicate with colleagues who work remotely, but according to Project Accelerator, when it comes to managing major projects, a ROWE approach doesn’t work at all.  Many projects need collaboration between team members, which is already difficult if the teams are in different locations, but even harder when individual team members aren’t working at the same time.

Usually colleagues bounce ideas off each other, but armed with only a screen and a keyboard, this can be difficult if not impossible. Instead, implementing flexible tools such as used by technology companies such as Google, can improve your employee happiness and retention.

It doesn’t work for everyone

ROWE doesn’t work as well in companies that are service oriented, when there are specific hours’ employees need to be available to answer phone calls or meet clients. It’s also difficult for businesses who rely heavily on collaboration to finish projects.

Often ROWE workplaces are difficult to manage because of the lack of communication with remote employees who have varying schedules. It also allows employees to practice unethical behaviour as you can’t keep an eye on how they have achieved their results, you can only see the final product.

Employees may find it difficult to adjust to a ROWE system if they lack self-discipline or self-motivation. With so much flexibility, employees are essentially working for themselves. If they cannot motivate themselves to meet their targets and achieve the results they should, they may need more management support.

Can ROWE work within your workplace?

If you do implement ROWE within your company, there are a few things you need to consider. If you can’t trust your employees, it won’t be successful. If your employees can’t be motivated to achieve their goals, you won’t see productivity. And if they don’t understand what their goals are, you’ll fail to get results.

Overall, making ROWE work within your workplace depends on your company. If you can manage remote employees well and make use of collaborative tools, it can be a smooth ride. However, if you rely heavily on communication to complete projects, cracks in your team may start to emerge.

Insights for Professionals provide free access to the latest thought leadership from global brands. We deliver subscriber value by creating and gathering specialist content for senior professionals. To view more HR content, click here.

Insights for Professionals