Get to Know ROWE: Remote Work on Steroids
Why the results-only model is best practice amid a pandemic.
As the novel coronavirus lingers, companies are increasingly leveraging remote work arrangements — some for the first time.
I’ve worked remotely in the public and private sectors for the past decade. Thus I can tell you that while there’s no “one size fits all” solution regarding telework, some models have proven more effective than others.
Successful remote work paradigms should be based on the specific industry and/or company involved, in addition to the nature of the work and specific job classifications. Remote work is not applicable to all jobs.
Employers need to experiment with different telework management models to discover the best outcome for their workforce.
Challenging times often demand bold solutions, in this case regarding remote work flexibility.
That’s why a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) makes good business sense for some industries, especially for white collar jobs in corporate America.
If you haven’t heard of a ROWE, the following are five critically important factors you need to know about the results-only approach to working remotely (this list is not all-inclusive):
- ROWE permits targeted segments of the workforce to integrate their professional and personal lives in a more seamless manner.
- ROWE empowers employees to decide when, where and how to work most effectively, in conjunction with management.
- ROWE gives real meaning to the outdated concept of work-life balance, which many savvy labor and HR experts have recognized is a “zero-sum game” which is no longer practical or achievable — the new concept is work-life integration.
- ROWE allows companies to maximize flexible work arrangements while simultaneously boosting business productivity and profits.
- ROWE increases employee engagement, performance, job satisfaction, morale and company (brand) loyalty.
In essence, a ROWE provides mutually beneficial outcomes for employers and employees alike. The five factors noted above are necessary for business success in our high-tech interconnected world, particularly amid a pandemic.
The ROWE model resembles remote work on steroids for today’s hyper-paced mobile, digital and virtual Information Age.
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The progressive approach of a ROWE also helps employers recruit and retain the sought after Millennial demographic, the largest segment of today’s labor force.
A ROWE system is likewise appealing to Generation Z, the oldest of whom are increasingly entering the workforce (or will be soon).
Companies must remember that a new generation of young people is seeking more work autonomy, according to countless surveys and studies. That’s another reason why a ROWE makes good business sense for targeted industries.
However, the results-only model is not conducive to all jobs. The ROWE is narrowly tailored for high performing workers in specific positions. It’s a smart management approach for periods of catastrophe and normality alike.
The ROWE structure is contingent upon a high-level of trust between managers and workers.
The results-only system gives those employees the responsibility of deciding when, where and how to work. This broad work flexibility can effectuate better performance, productivity and profits for some companies.
Moreover, a ROWE enhances work-life integration, which has superseded the elusive concept of work-life balance, as noted above.
More CEOs and executive leaders need to remember that work is what you do, not necessarily where and when you do it — at least for many white-collar jobs.
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Results-only work environment (ROWE) is a management strategy that focuses on results and employees' performance, not…
- “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 cultivating the right environment for people to manage all the demands in their lives…including work.”
ROWE can maximize employee performance through flexible working arrangements which provide the best outcomes for a company’s culture.
Thompson, principal of CultureRX, told CNN the following (article above):
- “Each person is 100% accountable and 100% autonomous, which means I am self-governing and independent.”
- “Real estate costs can drop significantly in a ROWE since people have let go of work as a place you go, but rather as something you do.”
- “In a ROWE, you are constantly asking: Is this the right goal? Do we have the right measure? There has to be constant course correction to make sure you aren’t wasting your time.”
One critically important aspect of the ROWE is a work culture based on accountability and trust between managers and employees.
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While a ROWE may have the potential to revolutionize work during times of crisis and otherwise, it’s worth reiterating that not all employees are eligible due to the broad range of job descriptions— some of which prohibit working remotely, such as many customer-facing positions in professional services, retail and restaurants.
Additionally, not all employees will be able to handle the high level of accountability, trust and responsibility that are essential elements for a ROWE to prove mutually beneficial for a company and its eligible workforce.
The results-only model is a smart move for certain job functions and classifications in specific industries.
Not all jobs require workers to be clustered in a traditional brick-and-mortar office environment around the clock.
Cari Ressler, the ROWE architect and former business partner of Jody Thompson, is a top executive for talent management at Accenture. Ressler made the following points to me during a previous interview about the effectiveness of the ROWE from a management perspective:
- “Employers have been realizing it’s not a question of if they should be embracing a culture of autonomy and accountability, but when they’re going to do it.”
- “As an executive, you feel responsibility and accountability for the success of the company. What if every single employee felt that same level of accountability? What if they operated as if they were an owner of the business?”
- “Because in exchange for that kind of accountability, employees get autonomy over when and where they achieve their well-defined results. A win for the business, win for the customer, and win for the employee.”
Savvy employers will quickly adapt to new ways of working in a new business era.
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While crisis management is unpredictable, disruptive innovation is inevitable.
That’s why forward-thinking employers recognize that change is the only constant in today’s fast-evolving workplace. And many companies are being forced to change the way they operate due to the coronavirus.
Moreover, as the labor force participation rate of Millennials and Gen Z continues to skyrocket, wise companies will proactively embrace progressive work paradigms.
Status quo employers can’t afford to reject change at the expense of progress. Intransigent old-school managers must transition to new virtual work arrangements.
That’s why savvy companies are adapting to management models that focus more on employee flexibility and accountability, and less on everyone working under the same roof — an antiquated concept of the Industrial Revolution.
Business operations are increasingly dependent on radical breakthroughs in technology to excel in a crowded global marketplace. Yet high-tech advances aren’t always afforded to employees who demonstrate high performance and productivity.
There’s a gaping disconnect between management expectations and employee needs — which is detrimental to bottom-line productivity.
The results-only work structure is being driven by rapidly changing demographics combined with new and evolving technology. These changes are redefining the scope of how and when work is done to get “the most bang for the buck” in a mutually beneficial manner for labor and management.
It should be evident by now that disruptive innovation is rendering the traditional brick-and-mortar office environment obsolete. Thus more employers need to quickly adapt or the best talent will go to the competition.
Any company that thinks otherwise is still living in the industrial age.
What do you think and why?
Please share your valuable feedback in the comment section below…
Note: You can also find this article on BIZCATALYST360 “The award-winning new media digest.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David is a strategic communications consultant, ghostwriter and former career spokesman for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). He’s also an advisory board member for the American Diversity Report.