Developed over a decade ago by two human resources professionals at Best Buy, ROWE, or the Results-Only Work Environment is a controversial HR strategy that calls for the end of the traditional 9-to-5 workday, as well as the elimination of employers setting a predetermined number of sick and vacation days for its employees. Instead, company staff can come and go to the office as they please and take time off as needed–favoring the workforce prove themselves by their results and not by their time in the office.
While the success of ROWE in the workplace is a matter of debate, studies by the University of Minnesota show a number of positives associated with the strategy.
Researchers found that the implementation of ROWE at Best Buy resulted in a 45% reduction in employee turnover. Furthermore, ROWE employees slept more, exercised more, and were more likely to see a doctor when they were sick, which ultimately resulted in a healthier workplace for everyone.
Similarly, CultureRx, the management consulting firm founded by Results-Only Work Environment’s original creators, studied the effects of ROWE on the nation’s leading power supply manufacturer Dynatronix. After implementing ROWE, Dynatronix saw real business results—its on-time delivery rate increased from a respectable 70% to a stellar 90%. Productivity measures improved as well. One year after applying ROWE, Dynatronix cut 20 hours from the time it took to build a custom product it had been contracted to make compared to the year prior.
In many ways, Results-Only Work Environment is the practical embodiment of Jack and Suzy Welch’s belief in work-life choices, where employees have to recognize that the choices they make between work and life have consequences. ROWE provides employees with a vehicle to discern their work-life choices: does an employee go above and beyond his or her expected results to ensure a promotion, or does an employee instead choose to simply achieve the results asked and use any extra time to be with family? There is no right or wrong answer with Results-Only Work Environment, as long as an employee achieves his or her expected results.
ROWE also helps managers pinpoint the employees that need more of their attention. Those who fail to produce results may need some additional coaching, or maybe better off in another role that effectively utilizes their talents.
Arguably, the freedom afforded by Results-Only Work Environment may not be best for all organizations—in fact, Best Buy ended ROWE at its offices in early 2013 to combat the company’s poor market performance. Certain businesses require individuals to be present at certain times in order to keep the wheels turning and the lights on. Plus, as Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer points out, people are “more collaborative and innovative” when they’re together.
Other businesses continue to use Results-Only Work Environment to great effect. A number of Gap, Inc.’s entities are ROWE-certified, as is BNY Mellon, which is piloting the strategy in the United Kingdom.
“[Results-Only Work Environment] has made us better and faster,” Avi Steinlauf, CEO of the automotive consumer research site Edmunds.com, told the multimedia publication Talent Management. “Over the last few years, we’ve grown as a business, and I think ROWE is an element that has helped us in that.”
The decision to go Results-Only Work Environment is entirely business dependent. For example, a car dealership may struggle with ROWE, as salespeople are needed on the showroom floor to close sales; however, a web development company may find that ROWE increases employee efficiency, as developers are able to complete tasks during their most productive hours—hours that may or may not align with the standard 9-to-5 work schedule.
Whether going all-out ROWE or not, almost all businesses can take a cue from the HR strategy by holding employees responsible for, above all, the results they produce—and not just when they punch the clock.