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Going Rowe: What You Need To Know About Results Only Workplace Environments

Ever wasted time at work trying to look busy while counting the hours until you could head out the door? Ever wondered how to engage and empower your workforce while simultaneously providing them a perfect work/life balance and getting the most productivity? If you answered yes to either of those questions, the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) is for you.

Ever wasted time at work trying to look busy while counting the hours until you could head out the door?

Ever wondered how to engage and empower your workforce while simultaneously providing them a perfect work/life balance and getting the most productivity?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) is for you.

If those don’t sound like things you can relate to, but you do want to recruit and retain the top talent for your company, keep reading.

What is a ROWE

Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson worked at Best Buy when they came up with ROWE (Results Only Workplace Environment) as part of the Employer of Choice committee tasked with making Best Buy a top consideration for talented people looking for employment.

Results Only Workplace Environments are exactly that: work environments where the only thing that counts is the result you get, not when or where you get it. Employees are tasked with creating a clearly defined result, and as long as that gets done, they can spend Tuesday afternoon at the movies or napping, no one cares.

ROWE worked so well at Best Buy that Ressler and Thompson wrote it all down in an easy to read book, “Why Work Sucks And How to Fix It: No schedules, no meetings, no joke—the simple change that can make your job terrific.” They even founded Culture X, a company that promotes ROWEs.

It’s about time

Traditional workplaces have time all wrong. Our best ideas are not necessarily formed from nine to five at our desks. Today, butts in desk chairs do not necessarily equal productivity.

Because we’re taught that hours at work equal dedication and good work, employees feel stress about being late and leaving early, spend time preparing excuses or rationalizations for their missed time, risk burnout and waste valuable time.

ROWE combats the stress and misuse of time by giving you control over when you meet the demands of your job. Deadlines still exist, but how you use your time to meet them day to day is up to you.

In college, I remember waking up at 4 a.m. one Friday morning with the solution to a physics problem. Genius did not strike in the three hours I spent toiling over that one problem the night before, but there it was at 4 a.m. I spent nearly four hours on that one problem because that is how long it took to get the required result. If I’d solved it in four minutes, I would have considered my homework done and watched Dawson’s Creek.

ROWEs operate on that same principal. If the result is achieved, the job is done, go play Frisbee golf.

It’s about communication

When you are working or managing a ROWE it’s very important that you define and communicate clear expectations.

Because not everyone is in the workplace at the same time, communication with coworkers must be efficient and planned. You can’t meander over to someone’s cube and expect them to be there to answer your questions. This means, when they give you information, you pay attention.

You need to have a solid two-way relationship with your manager and communicate frequently about goals and expectations. Managers become more like coaches and less like supervisors.

Meetings are all optional in ROWEs, which means if it isn’t necessary, don’t waste your time attending. If the same purpose could be accomplished in an email, don’t call the meeting. Every task must be evaluated for how it furthers a defined goal.

This way of working cuts out wasted time but requires a different type of highly focused communication in the workplace. You will need to adjust.

ROWE is a completely different way of working

It’s more than just a flexible work arrangement. Going ROWE is a fundamental change in the nature of work.

Unlike flexible work arrangements, in a ROWE, flex time is not necessary because you already have complete control over time. It does not need to be earned and isn’t treated as a privilege. It just is.

Ressler and Thompson talk about “sludge,” negative attitudes and assumptions based on how people spend time. Sludge needs to be eliminated from the workplace for ROWE to work; it takes time and training to recognize and eradicate sludge.

People like it

ROWEs give both Gen X and Gen Y exactly what they often lack in traditional work environments: complete control over their time, empowerment and engagement. ROWEs are built on the constant feedback that Millennials love.

When this system was implemented at Best Buy, in most departments there was an initial increase in people getting fired for not doing their jobs, but an even larger decrease in percentage of people who voluntarily left the company for a different job.

If that isn’t enough to convince you that ROWEs work, check out this nice list of benefits.

How you get started

Thinking about going ROWE? I’d recommend you pick up a copy of “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It.” It’s a quick read and answers as lot of questions that might come up as you get going. Also, check out this practical resource to get started.

You are not alone. Lots of support exists for organizations considering going ROWE. You can jump into a community of experienced and newbie companies who are willing to share their insights with you.

Are you ready to go ROWE? If you already have, what works and what doesn’t? What concerns do you have?

Take the first step towards your future.

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