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. Iga

Today's post is about a subject that is highly controversial in the corporate world, but something I am personally very interested in, not as in "yey, let's try it immediately", but rather the hard results it can potentially bring.

The topic is ROWE - or results only work environment.

Nearly all aspects of our lives have been affected by the changing technology from health care to communication. However when it comes to our working environment we are stuck in the 50's where manufacturing industry influenced the 9 to 5 work schedule. This model has prevailed over the years unchallenged, even though our workloads have expanded beyond 40 hours per week, and due to technological advancements we can now carry our work (laptops, blackberries) home, which we readily do. However, many researchers in the field noticed that having a body in the chair for 8 hours a day doesn't equate productivity or results. Being at work doesn't always mean people are working.

That was the genesis of one of the most radical innovation in the workplace: results only work environment (ROWE). Nationwide, 3 percent of businesses now say they have a ROWE, including Best Buy, Gap, Inc., Verizon, IBM to name a few. Evidence shows that teams who have adopted ROWE see productivity rise by 41 percent on average.

Results-Only Work Environment is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. In a ROWE, people focus on results and only results ­ increasing the organization's performance while creating the right climate for people to manage all the demands in their lives . . . including work.

Because in ROWE results need to be clearly defined (since you cannot evaluate a person based on how many hours a day they spend in the office), managers need to clearly state the tasks and deadlines to their teams. It was observed that the teamwork, morale and engagement soared and led to less workers feeling overworked, stressed out or guilty. People were where they needed to be, when they need to be, ­they didn't need schedules.

The most controversial aspect, however, was that in ROWE meetings become optional. For many organizations that became the tipping point to back out of the program. But those who decided to give it a try, found out that regardless whether someone decided to opt out of the meeting, all staff was responsible for what happens in meetings. Huge attention was given to 'worthiness' of such gatherings and very quickly people realized how many hours have been previously wasted in unnecessary meetings. According to Jason Fried from 37 Signals and his recent book 'Rework' he claims that meetings are waste of time and expensive. If you have 5 people in a meeting for 1 hour, you are loosing 5 hours, not to mention interruption. And how many managers and directors spend entire days in meetings? How productive are they? How much are they not doing by sitting in those meetings? How many times are they forced to stay late to 'catch up'?

ROWE for Employees

ROWE recognizes that life is an individual experience and that no two lives are identical, and leverages this to achieve better performance from each individual. ROWE is not Flextime or Telecommuting or Job-Sharing, and is not about allowing your people to work from home a couple of days per week. ROWE is about cutting out from your day what doesn't drive the results, like being stuck in traffic every day for 3 hours. You make the decisions about what you do and where you do it, every minute of every day.

ROWE benefits:

* You control the clock and results are your responsibility

* Healthier lifestyle ­ not overworked, less stress

* Autonomy & accountability

* Environmentally friendly, save on the commute and work from home!

ROWE for Business

Successfully adopting a Results-Only Work Environment will position your company to attract and retain talent that will show up energized, disciplined, flexible and focused, ready to deliver all results necessary to drive the business. A ROWE workforce is more efficient, productive and loyal to the organization while also feeling satisfied, fulfilled, and in control of their personal and professional lives. Management can spend less time monitoring and focus their energy on the business and team building (yes!).

ROWE business results:

* Increase productivity & efficiency

* Talent retention & attraction

* Optimization of space

* Elimination of wasteful processes

It is obvious that not all types of business can benefit and adapt to ROWE. ­ Schools, hospitals, airline business, manufacturing better stay as they are. However, most corporate and other white collar professions, where creative thinking and problem solving is key performance objective, ROWE ­ with the right attitudes from management - has a potential to make them thrive. Best Buy Co. implemented ROWE in 2006 and reported an average of 35% increase in productivity (within teams that were affected). If a company is striving for survival in the economic downturn, like Best Buy's direct competitor - Circuit City once was, it is a huge advantage to have that much higher level of productivity and lower operational costs.

Sources: http://www.hrmreport.com/ http://gorowe.com/know-rowe/what-is-rowe/ http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124705801

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At 8/29/2010 10:16:00 AM, Blogger nancy said...

What a great idea! Especially getting rid of the dreaded, boring, waste-of-time meetings!!!! You mentioned that Best Buy had adopted ROWE, is that in their retail outlets or just corporate? Would think it would be a little tough making it work in a retail store...what would happen if no one wanted to come in and man the cash registers that day?


At 8/30/2010 09:38:00 AM, Blogger Iga said...

Thank you Nancy,
Yes, you are correct, Best Buy only implemented it in their corporate office, not in the retail. Easy to imagine why ;). IBM and several others have also been using it for a few years with great success. I have to say from what I've read about ROWE so far - every company when contemplating ROWE is approaching it with diligence and spend time and effort training everybody, not to set themselves up for failure. Usually they bring in outside specialists to help them out with the transition. They also advise the company which departments will benefit from ROWE and which ones will not. Retail, like you suggested, is best in its traditional format. Cheers!


At 9/27/2010 09:35:00 PM, Blogger Michael B. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


At 9/27/2010 09:37:00 PM, Blogger Michael B. said...

Great post! May I suggest not thinking about ROWE as a Remote-Only Work Environment. We believe ROWE is appropriate for all industries and businesses, because a focus on RESULTS can benefit productivity, performance, and morale - no matter the environment.

In fact, ROWE is currently being studied in a resident healthcare environment. Also, people in retail obviously need to be available to the customer, but are traditional schedules the only way that can be accomplished? Could employees, if supported, not design a work environment focused on results? We believe they would rise to the occasion.


At 10/05/2010 01:23:00 PM, Blogger Iga said...

Thank you Michael for sharing. I believe we are able to design our own, results-oriented schema given the opportunity and trust.
Since that post, I have become very, well...results-oriented person, and I am seeing so many inefficiencies we put up with on a daily basis. I am actually doing a short-term experiment about that, and will be sharing the results soon.


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