AuthorsCIOIT Staff & Team Building

Manage Work, Not People: Does a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) Work for You?

As companies try to reduce turnover and engage employees, the traditional ways we work are changing. Employees desire more flexibility now than ever before. Most adults work outside of the home in today’s society. This trend leaves tired, stressed parents to care for children, attend school functions, and do housework. In turn, neither adult can offload their non-work responsibilities to another person, and each feels overloaded with time pressures. When a person has too much stress at home, it also carries over to his or her job and often ends in employee turnover.

To combat this growing trend, companies big and small have started offering a results-only work environment for employees, or ROWE. Studies have shown that implementing the ROWE can reduce employee turnover by approximately 45 percent. This in turn creates happier, less stressed employees who still get results but are able to take care of work and personal matters as they see fit. However, the ROWE is not for everyone.

Time Management

todolistIn a results-only work environment, responsibility for time management falls to you, the employee. Instead of a nine-to-five schedule, you choose your own hours. You work during the hours you are most productive. For some people, they may show up at the office at 6:30 a.m. and leave at noon. Others might choose to come in at 6 p.m. and work until 11 p.m. However, ROWE also differs from flexible hours because it is not tracked.

The time spent on a project is irrelevant because the emphasis is on results, not how many hours you clocked in. You are paid a set rate, typically forty hours per week with an option to claim overtime if necessary. Additionally, the need for vacation, comp time, and sick leave are eliminated. When you work at your own pace and schedule, you can schedule in vacations, and make up for time lost due to doctors’ appointments or being ill.


ROWE furthermore allows you to choose where you will work. Perhaps you need to work in the office to avoid distractions at home. Forbes Contributor Sasha Galbraith asserts that ROWE is on the cutting edge of evening the scales in regards to men and women’s pay equality. Galbraith mentions that men typically log more hours than women, but ROWE is not about hours logged; it’s about results. ROWE makes work fit into your life. You are allowed to change your hours on a whim. Since you are not accountable for the hours spent, you are not required to set a specific schedule.

With the flexibility of ROWE, the creators had to institute a new way to track the effectiveness of employees. In a traditional nine-to-five job, employers assume you’re being effective and a good employee if you come to work on time and don’t leave early. However, many people do not use that time wisely or effectively. In a ROWE, you are evaluated on the results you achieve. Your manager outlines clear goals and objectives to be met in a specific time period. These goals could be to increase sales by 10 percent, or to develop a new product in six months. Each team member is then evaluated on his or her contribution to the achievement of the goal. By using these criteria, employees feel in control and valued. Your contribution matters and you can see this laid out by managers.

What Kind of Business and Person Fits into a ROWE?


A results-only work environment is not for every person, or every job. Some jobs cannot operate under a ROWE. For example, customer service representatives must work at specific hours to make sure all the calls are answered. Some individuals may work better under the traditional work system, especially those who are unable to self-discipline or self-motivate. With every method of how to accomplish the goals of an organization, there are challenges. ROWE is not the exception.

Communication is sometimes difficult between team members since they are not physically together in an office and may not work the same hours. Additionally, as results are emphasized over how they are attained, unethical behaviors sometimes creep in. In order to overcome these challenges, you must first be aware of them. Then you must solve them creatively. Set up virtual meetings to communicate, or when possible use email so the person can get back to you.

When implemented correctly and appropriately, a results-only work environment benefits both employees and the organization. Where appropriate, it is being considered a viable means of business insurance and, as previously mentioned, is certainly making waves in employee retention. Red Fish Technology claims that Best Buy saw a 27% increase in employee retention in only two years after implementing ROWE (in spite of what the earlier link in this article cites about its being subsequently dismantled). Being held responsible for what you do, when and how you please, is self-sustaining when autonomy yields results.

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