ROWE (a Results-Only Work Environment) represents an innovative management philosophy designed to give employees freedom over how they complete their work; freedom over their comings, goings and general movements around the office… as long as the work assigned to them is completed on time. Employees can work whenever and wherever they want as long as their work targets are achieved.
Its origins can be traced back to Ressler and Thompson who, through their work within the retail sector, discovered that when employees were given more control over their time, they were incentivized to be more productive and perform at their best.
What are the benefits of ROWE?
Improved work–life balance
Reduced turnover, higher retention
Increased job satisfaction and organizational commitment
Potential attraction of diverse range of talent
Companies that have been able to effectively implement ROWE report a major increase in productivity
Are there some things that remain unchanged under ROWE?
Positive and negative home-to-work spill over
Self-reported overall well-being
Are there any challenges with ROWE?
Managers, especially either inexperienced or new to management in that organization, may find it difficult to manage within the “virtual” space
There may be uncertainty regarding how all managers consistently (using the same standardized and/or most relevant performance metrics) evaluate their employees based on their work results
Employees may struggle if they don’ t fully understand their responsibilities or if they are meeting their expected results
Arguably, ROWE may not be appropriate across all job roles, departments, industries, i.e., Customer Services, Department stores, Call centres, etc.
ROWE may not work for new or inexperienced employees who, by definition, require more support and understanding of what good performance looks like
Research has found that “telecommuters (i.e., those who work from home or a remote location) work between 5 and 7 total hours more per week than non-telecommuters”. As such, could there be a positive correlation between increased hours and increased performance?
It may be difficult to establish and sustain ROWE within teams that experience(d) issues of mistrust, failed communication and/or collaboration
Potentially, ROWE could unleash unethical behaviour, since value is only measured in results – not how the results are reached
Employees who find it hard to self-discipline or self-motivate may not succeed in ROWE workplaces
So, what’s the verdict on ROWE?
Research suggests that the implementation of ROWE would be most effective in a results-driven environment, so might work for certain departments rather than the entire organization
Job descriptions, responsibilities, goals, roles within a team, etc. needs to be clearly defined
The role of managers needs to be clearly articulated and understood
Decisions need to be made as to “how” the goal is achieved, as much as the goal itself
Decisions need to be made as to the quality of the output, as much as the goal itself
Employees are, by and large, motivated by different things, so there is an argument to implement some standardization across the business versus full-on ROWE, e.g., how to promote and sustain an organizational culture, what good, quality performance looks like and guidance for managers to lead within the virtual workplace
I’d like to see further research to take place into ROWE; not just with regards to the benefits or challenges, but to explore the long-term effects for managers and employees alike to truly understand the impacts of ROWE on organisational performance and overall job satisfaction and well-being.