ROWE: Is It Right For Your Organization?



Austin Walk





460536277Today is a Tuesday, early afternoon, and I’m sitting at my desk at our offices in Irvine, CA. Walking down the halls, it feels strange, and empty. Well, that’s because it is. The entire team is off flawlessly executing a massive corporate event. I’ll be heading out there tomorrow, but today I can’t help reflect on my current work environment. It’s quite. It’s uninterrupted. And no offense to my workmates… it’s nice.

If you were to travel around the United States, stopping at random to tour some of the most successful white-collar working environments, my bet is you’d be surprised. What I think would surprise you the most is the lack of managerial presence, lack of employees sitting at their desks, and lack of unproductivity.

Thanks to Best Buy, the results-only work environments, or ROWE, has been sweeping the nation. Here are some high level characteristics of ROWE.

1. Work is measured by productivity and accomplishing goals.

2. Set office hours are dissolved.

3. There are no work schedules.

4. Every meeting is optional.

5. Work isn’t a place you go, it is something you do.

Essentially, with a ROWE, each person can do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. It’s a more respectful method of work, communicating trust and respect for your employees. Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong. It works. Look at this data we pulled from Forbes, HuffPost and the Shriver Report.

1. Best Buy saw a 30-40 percent increase in productivity (depending on department).

2. Suntell (a risk-management software firm) saw a 20 percent drop in employee count.

3. Suntell saw a 20 percent increase in customer base.

4. Operating expenses drop by 15 percent on average by companies implementing ROWE.

Statistics are still washing ashore, for sure, but one reason why this wave of freedom is sweeping the U.S. workplace, is because the logic of it just sounds right. With a ROWE organizations find:

1. Management is forced to weed out non performing employees.

2. No more guilt for leaving work early or coming in late.

3. Autonomy and accountability are increased.

4. Healthier lifestyles with less stress and more sleep.

5. Employees essentially have unlimited time off and sick leave.

6. Everyday feels like Saturday.

Over the weekend, I had a last minute project thrown on me for an early Monday morning client meeting. That task was accomplished more efficiently than anything I did that entire week. Why? Because I had the ultimate incentive waiting for me. My weekend.

Obviously a ROWE isn’t going to fit for every work environment and organization, but chances are there are some areas that could use a refreshing environment change. If you’re thinking about implementing a ROWE in your organization, here are the final secrets to success.

Goals and Deliverables: if your team doesn’t know exactly what is expected of them, and by when… a ROWE will fail. Without question [and so might your business].

People: a ROWE naturally attracts brighter, more responsible, more efficient people. For a ROWE to succeed you need to be prepared to remove those who are not.

Communication: 40 email long threads in your outlook browser are a thing of the past. A ROWE requires equally matched communication and task management pieces. We recommend Basecamp and Slack.

Be bold. Ask yourself – Is a ROWE right for areas of my organization? We hope it is.