A Results Only Work Environment (or Results Oriented Work Environment), is a radical management strategy in which employees are paid for what they achieve rather than the number of hours they work. In simple terms, think numbers of widgets made rather than number of hours spent making widgets and apply that concept to all types of work.
This resonates with the Nomad view of work being an ‘activity’ rather than a ‘place’.
In a ROWE, people do whatever they want whenever they want – as long as the work gets done. Employees control their own calendars and are not required to be in ‘the office’ if they can complete their tasks elsewhere. In the park, in a coffee shop, at 3am or on Sunday. Whenever and wherever.
- Flexible work hours help participants to better balance work and home life
- Less demanding work environments and an end to the long hours culture reduces stress and contributes to a healthier workforce
- Demonstrates a positive and trusting employer/employee relationship that can lead to greater employee satisfaction and loyalty
- Teamwork, morale and engagement can soar
- Output measurement is harder for some jobs
- Management can be challenging (culture change)
- Some people have a harder time working with others without face-to-face interaction
- Can be destructive for individuals who don’t have the discipline to hold themselves accountable for what they should work on
- There is potential for unreasonable expectations to be set that by default demand employees to work at all hours just to conform, perversely blurring the boundaries between work and family life
The ROWE methodology was most famously implemented at Best Buy, a Fortune 100 company.
There’s a fascinating write up over at BusinessWeek, entitled, “Smashing the Clock” which begins,
“One afternoon last year, Chap Achen, who oversees online orders at Best Buy, shut down his computer, stood up from his desk, and announced that he was leaving for the day. It was around 2 p.m., and most of Achen’s staff were slumped over their keyboards, deep in a post-lunch, LCD-lit trance. “See you tomorrow,” said Achen. “I’m going to a matinee.” Under normal circumstances, an early-afternoon departure would have been totally un-Achen. After all, this was a 37-year-old corporate comer whose wife laughs in his face when he utters the words “work-life balance.” But at Best Buy’s Minneapolis headquarters, similar incidents of strangeness were breaking out all over the ultramodern campus.” continued…
Fully implementing a ROWE in the UK public sector would be challenging. However, we need to embrace the principles and begin to adjust our thinking and our approach. Lean and effective 21st century public services require new thinking and visionary leadership. Perhaps we should loosen our ties, release control a little and try some new approaches. The days of the workhouse are long gone and study after study confirm that we are not best served by legacy ‘command and control’ management styles.