The Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) approach was initially developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson in 2001 as a way of attracting top talent through non-traditional management methods. ROWE is based on a simple premise: Work output matters more than making appearances and sticking to the clock on the same schedule as everyone else. It heavily emphasizes task delegation, employee independence, and work flexibility (both time and location), which could be ideal for introverts, working parents, students, and employees with difficult commutes.
ROWE isn’t perfect, of course, but adopting even a partial ROWE strategy could be enormously beneficial for your employees’ satisfaction and productivity. Here are a few considerations to make before incorporating it into your management approach:
Does Location Really Matter?
If many of your employees spend the majority of their days on computers, then why does it matter that they complete assignments in the office? Many employees could be more productive on their own time and in their own location (not having to commute to the office, for instance).
Does your team need face-to-face collaboration?
ROWE isn’t for everyone. Even the CEO of Best Buy tried ROWE, only to later switch back to traditional approaches to work. Some people don’t work as well on their own isolated from the rest of the office or at home. Some employees need the structure of the office environment and face-to-face collaboration with other team members. Some projects and tasks are best handled by a team in the same location.
Surprisingly, a recent university study found that the Millennial Generation actually prefers face-to-face communication, which indicates that allowing employees to work anywhere they want could hinder your team’s communication. It can be tough to communicate only by e-mail and phone. Face-to-face communication can rapidly solve problems and put out fires, while a ROWE strategy that allows employees to respond to emails and calls whenever they’re available can be detrimental in urgent situations.
What are your priorities for your team?
Ultimately, you need to ask yourself: What are my top priorities for my team? Do I value having them all in one place with me and seeing the visual proof of progress towards task completion? How does each team member work best? ROWE could certainly be useful for reliable employees with challenging work/life conflicts (e.g., living far away from the office, erratic schedules for their children or college classes, etc.) and employees who simply prefer working as independently as possible. But ROWE is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. The key is to use ROWE when it makes sense — to an employee and to the company.