What is Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and Why is it Important ?

Traditional Workplace Time Requirements

Ever since the modern corporation evolved into its present form, it has become the norm for employers to “clock” the number of hours worked by their employees so that they can keep track of the work done as well as ensure attendance for the prescribed working hours.

Indeed, the tracking and monitoring of time spent at work is so pervasive that worldwide there are rules and regulations mandating the minimum number of hours that employees ought to work in terms of Seven Hour workdays in France, Eight Hour workdays in the United States and Ten Hour Workdays in Singapore.

These requirements ensure that employees spend that much time in the office whether they are productive all throughout the day or not. This means that the emphasis is on spending time at work rather and which in some cases leads to the possibility wherein Murphy’s Law of “work expands to fill the time available to do it” comes into play.

In other words, by insisting on physical attendance of the employees during the working hours, employers are also taking the risk of lesser productivity as well as contributing to “Rush Hour” commuting gridlocks and more energy consumption.

Results Only Work Environment

Enter the concept of ROWE or Results Only Work Environment which is pioneering in its emphasis on measuring outcomes and results of the employees instead of measuring the number of hours worked by the employees.

This concept pioneered by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson places the results achieved by an employee irrespective of the number of hours he or she has spent on the task and mandates that employers must pay employees for the output rather than the number of hours worked on the task.

In this paradigm, if employees finish their work quickly, they have the option of either taking on new tasks or simply relaxing at work or in their homes. On the other hand, if employees take longer to complete the task, they have to ensure that they ramp up their productivity in order to not lose out on more tasks.

Of course, one might very well ask whether this would lead to increased competition between productive and unproductive employees wherein the latter lose out in the “race to the bottom” and the “survival of the fittest”.

Therefore, the creators of this concept have clarified that in manufacturing industries where a fixed output is expected of the employees, the ROWE works best by ensuring that workers become more productive in the available time.

Benefits of ROWE to Employees

In other words, ROWE is as much about increased productivity as it is about reducing the load and the burden on employees by insisting that they spend a minimum number of hours at the workplace.

It can be said that concepts such as telecommuting, work from home, and remote working are all related to the ROWE since the common thread running through them is the emphasis on results rather than the number of hours worked by the employees.

Indeed, research has found that ROWE has direct benefits in terms of increasing productivity and indirect benefits of ensuring that employees spend more time with their families and friends.

Indeed, as this type of flexible working hour’s results in employees refreshing and rejuvenating themselves, it is possible that their productivity would increase thus perpetuating a “positive loop” where each element reinforces the other.

Benefits of ROWE to Employers

Apart from this, ROWE ensures that managers become coaches wherein they hold their employees accountable for the results and in the process ensuring more accountability at all levels of the organizational hierarchy.

This also has the benefit of attracting and retaining top talent who are motivated by the prospect of being rewarded for their productivity and are not demoralized since they are contended and happy being acknowledged for the results that they have achieved and not merely the number of hours worked.

As can be seen from the discussion so far, ROWE has mainly come about due to the increased flexibility and adaptability that is required from the employees in the changing nature of work and with the advent of the sharing economy and the digital economy.

Indeed, concepts such as ROWE were always around when the era of manufacturing was in full swing. However, what is different now and which explains the greater interest in these paradigms is that more and more employers and policymakers have realized the importance of flexible working hours, telecommuting, work from home, and the rise of the freelance or the gig economy.

Moreover, with more women in the workforce, it is also the case that employers are realizing the need for work life balance for both men and women and maternal leave and flexible working for women in particular. Apart from this, the communications revolution has made possible these options and paradigms and this is also a driver of ROWE.

Conclusion: ROWE Depends on How Employers Implement it

Finally, whether employers adopt ROWE or not, it is clear that it would be present in some form or the other since outcomes or results based payment is always a guarantor of increased productivity and enhanced motivation.

However, as pointed out earlier, this should not become a race to the bottom or lead to the survival of the fittest and hence, our view in this article is that much depends on how it is implemented and how it is monitored in addition to how the benefits accrue to different stakeholders.

In conclusion, the future of work portends a shift away from the second wave industrialization and information technology to the third wave mobile and digitalization and ROWE must be seen in this context.


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