Do Results-Only Workplaces Really Work?

By business.com editorial staff,
business.com writer
| Updated
Apr 06, 2020
Image Credit: REDPIXEL PL/Shutterstock

Results-only work environments can produce great results. However, it might not be optimal for every organization. Is it right for yours?

  • The results-only work environment (ROWE) is a human resources model that pays employees based on efficiency over hours worked.

  • ROWE benefits include higher productivity rates, more accountability, and less turnover among essential staff members. Employees respond well to ROWE since the technique allows for more flexibility with schedules and compensation packages.

  • Drawbacks of ROWE are that the model doesn't work well for those who aren't self-starters or those who need consistent management interventions.

The results-only work environment, or ROWE, is a management strategy designed to increase productivity while eliminating the arbitrary constraints of traditional workplaces.

The program, created in 2005 by two Best Buy staffers, gives employees the freedom to work on their own terms and their own time, and measures them only on the results they produce – not the amount of time they spend at their desks.

Though Best Buy abandoned ROWE in 2013 (a move that many think was indicative of much deeper company issues), many organizations, both large and small, have implemented ROWE or variations of results-only workplaces to great success.

ROWE holds benefits for both employers and employees. However, it also comes with potential drawbacks that organizations should consider.

The idea behind ROWE

The concept of ROWE is relatively easy to grasp. An organization's main goal is to succeed. Their most valuable tool in working toward that goal? Highly skilled, highly motivated employees. And those employees are most driven to succeed when they work in a relaxed, comfortable environment and feel appreciated for their expertise and accomplishments.

ROWE aims to provide that relaxed, comfortable environment – while eliminating the customs of a conventional office. In an ideal ROWE workplace, there are no set hours and no required meetings. Employees aren't even required to come into the office – at all. They have total autonomy over where they work, how they work and when they work. The only measure of value is the results they deliver.

With ROWE, an employee's performance is measured entirely on his or her delivered results. Productivity is measured by output, not hours worked or face time put in. Therefore, much of an employee's work can be done at home (or wherever else he or she might choose to work), on the employee's schedule.

Do results-only workplaces get results?

For many businesses, the advantages of results-only work environments seem to outweigh the disadvantages. Employers everywhere are constantly looking for ways to attract and retain top employees – without having to pay for large wage increases or expensive benefit plans. A great way to do that? Providing a completely flexible, completely results-based work environment.

It's a big draw, with flexibility topping the list of desired employee benefits and more employees choosing to work from home every year. But it also has big results for companies. Organizations that have implemented ROWE have seen material benefits that include cost savings, financial gains, increased productivity and improved workplace morale.

The pros and cons of ROWE

Should your business explore a results-only workplace? That's a big decision – one that deserves a lot of thought and discussion. Below, we've put together a basic list of the pros and cons of ROWE to help you get started:

Pros

  • ROWE workplaces require less physical pace because fewer employees spend time in the office
  • Employees use fewer sick days and take less time off, because they can better work around appointments, illnesses and other events.
  • Employees are healthier, happier and have less work-related stress
  • ROWE is environmentally friendly, saving both energy and commuting expenses.
  • ROWE increases employee satisfaction, and decreases employee turnover, thereby reducing hiring and onboarding costs.
  • Companies that have been able to effectively implement ROWE report a major increase in productivity.

Cons

  • ROWE workplaces can be difficult to manage, since it's often harder to communicate with remote employees who work varying schedules
  • ROWE opens up the possibility for unethical behavior, since value is only measured in results – not how the results are reached
  • Employees who find it hard to self-discipline or self-motivate may not succeed in ROWE workplaces
  • ROWE doesn't work for everyone. It's impossible for consumer-facing fields like customer service or retail, and difficult for highly collaborative companies to implement 

Companies that use ROWE

Businesses will find that many top competitors follow a ROWE model despite some drawbacks. These companies believe that making employees have a stake in their success will benefit all from top to bottom. According to the head of CultureRX Jody Thompson, ROWE models make every single employee 100% accountable and autonomous. Companies that started or changed over to a ROWE model include WATT Global Media, JL Buchanan, Collage.com, World Wide Web Hosting, and Summit CPA.

The most well-known ROWE Fortune 100 company is Best Buy. Best Buy started the strategy at its headquarters and included all 4,000 current employees in the initiative. ROWE seems to work well at companies that implement the human resources model. Consulting firms report productivity increases of 40% and 90% lower turnover rates.  

The bottom line

In many cases, results-only workplaces produces results. However, ROWE isn't right for every organization. The most important factor in deciding whether ROWE will work for you? Knowing your business – and your employees. Implemented effectively, ROWE could have a big impact on your productivity, your efficiency, your employees' satisfaction and even your bottom line.

Have you ever run – or worked in – a ROWE workplace? What was your experience?

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff
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