Results-only Work Environment (ROWE) - Tilson


Results-only Work Environment (ROWE)

Culture, Leadership & Management | April 2022

The workplace is changing as many companies are making strides in their philosophies, company culture and work-life balance initiatives. Gap Outlet, a division of Gap Inc., revolutionized the workplace of their corporate headquarters by implementing a Results-only Work Environment (ROWE)—a management technique in which employees have the freedom to decide what to work on and when to do so.

By giving employees control of their careers, they will ideally be happier and more productive. This philosophy combats the way many managers reward employees—by how much time they put in at the office—and encourages rewarding only results.

Types of Benefits

Under this business model, employees and employers have the following benefits:

  • Employees can fulfill their duties when they want, as long as they get done.
  • Employees feel more in control of their professional and personal lives.
  • Unlimited paid vacation
  • Employees are less likely to be overworked or stressed on the job.
  • No schedules, mandatory meetings or judgments from others about how and when employees spend their time working.
  • Elimination of wasteful processes often seen as busy work by employees.
  • Management trusts employees to get their work done without telling them when, where or how it happens.
  • Employees are judged based on how much they get accomplished and how successful they are at meeting goals.
  • It’s environmentally friendly, as working from home can save on electricity used at the workplace and eliminates the commute.
  • ROWE can be used as a recruitment and retention technique, due to its appeal.

For example, a Gap Outlet employee may complete an entire month of work in just two weeks so he can devote those other two weeks to traveling with his family. Another employee may log in hours from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and then pick up where she left off at 8 p.m.

This system is effective only if management and employees are clear about job descriptions and expectations. In addition, employees must learn how to communicate with one another, plan around each other’s schedules and pick up additional responsibilities when co-workers take time off.

This new management philosophy is not a realistic option for all professions. For instance, it is ineffective in the service industry where employees must be present to fulfill their duties. ROWE also does not work well for professionals who operate on external schedules like stockbrokers who must work when the market is open. Most importantly, this system will be ineffective for those who do not have a firm grasp on their time-management skills, are not self-disciplined or cannot stay focused away from the office.

Implementing ROWE

To implement ROWE at your organization, remember the following:

  • Make meetings optional for employees by allowing them the freedom to decide if they should participate. If they can make better use of company time, then they should do so.
  • Do not judge how employees segment their work hours.
  • Reward employees based on their performance, not how much time they are in the office.
  • Do not dictate what work-life balance strategies employees should put into place; let them decide what schedule works best for them and their family.
  • Do not allow only some employees to have flexible schedules; it must be offered to all employees who can still fulfill their duties with a ROWE-type schedule.
  • Do not use fake crises as a way to manage employees, such as dropping in last-minute requests on employees. This creates a false sense of urgency and tends to waste their time.
  • Clearly communicate performance goals to employees and hold them accountable for meeting these benchmarks. When employees are not performing at a high level, talk to them right away and find out why.
  • Trust your employees as you trust your own abilities. Do not instate unnecessary rules for those who may not live up to your expectations.

ROWE can be complicated when applied to nonexempt (hourly) employees. Federal and many state laws require that hourly employees log their time in order to receive overtime pay, if necessary. Nonexempt employees who work for a company that uses the ROWE philosophy will have the freedom to set their own hours but will still have to track those hours in order to be paid.

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