The Small Business ROI of ROWE

A new managerial style is gaining ground in the private sector. Results-Oriented Work Environment (ROWE) eliminates time concerns and focuses solely on employee results.

ROWE, or Results-Only Work Environment, describes a radical new management style that focuses on results and productivity instead of office presence and regular work-hours. While the idea of giving employees control over their own work hours sounds disconcerting to many managers, ROWE appears to increase employee productivity and morale while reducing sick days and work-home conflicts.

How ROWE Works

ROWE recognizes that results and productivity matter more than a fixed schedule and set workplace. The strategy requires a shift in expectations of both employers and employees.

Employees control their own work schedule, with the understanding that they assume complete responsibility for their duties and results. Teams of employees develop goals, take on responsibilities to achieve those goals, and decide who will work where and when. These agreements are flexible and can be revisited.

ROWE frees managers from the time-consuming tasks of clock- and desk-watching. Instead, supervisors and mangers help teams develop their goals, track results and remove obstacles that hinder productivity.

ROWE Results

To people schooled in traditional management strategies, ROWE sounds like a shortcut to absolute chaos. Giving employees free rein to set where and when they work makes managers extremely nervous. Studies of ROWE, however, indicate that far from causing chaos, the flexible work system has a positive impact on both results and employee outlook.

Staff members in ROWE studies report less work-home conflicts, and feel more invested in their company. Health also improves: ROWE participants are more likely to see a doctor if they feel sick, reducing the number of sick days claimed. Healthier, well-rested staff translates into greater productivity.

Even the environment benefits from ROWE. Working at home reduces commute times and exhaust emissions. Businesses have lower utilities as computers and lights don’t consume as much power as they would on a 9-to-5 schedule.

ROWE Considerations

A company initiating an ROWE strategy can expect some resistance from both managers and, surprisingly, some employees. Managerial concerns usually center on loss of control and the suspicion that employees will abuse their newfound scheduling power.

In practice, managers adapt well to ROWE. No longer constrained by employee monitoring and clock-watching, they can focus on the rewarding aspects of management: guiding employees and monitoring results.

Employees may also resist switching to ROWE. Change, after all, is unsettling. Employee concerns include worrying about loss of guidance and the possibility that the system will result in more work for the individual. Open discussions about ROWE benefits and a commitment to provide management guidance can calm these concerns.

It's important to remember that ROWE stands for Results-Oriented Work Environment. ROWE is not telecommuting, flextime or job-sharing. Remote work, while possible, is not a ROWE requirement.

Some employees embrace the opportunity to work from home, while others feel more comfortable in an office environment. ROWE allows employees to make work-related decisions that work best for them, their team and the company as a whole. And it seems to be working: The private sector increasingly uses ROWE strategies, and government agencies are experimenting with the new system.

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