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ROWE: Is there a better way to work?

Written by: on  November 2, 2010

Cali Ressler and Jody Thomson are the co-founders of CultureRx and the creators of ROWE – Results Only Work Environment.

Their book ‘Why Work Sucks And How To Fix It’ set out to challenge the way we work and suggest that there is a better way to work.

They start by telling us that 40 hour week originated from the Fair Labour Standards Act of 1938 and was designed to end the practice of child labour and establish the minimum wage. This has since been used as the gold standard for competency, efficiency, and effectiveness, but in the information and service economy is this really a good measurement of a job well done?

They claim that our sense of time and our beliefs about how work gets done are really holding us back, and that we care more about controlling people than letting them succeed.

Here are some of the many beliefs they say we have about work:

  • Most work happens from Monday to Friday, 8am to 5.30pm
  • Results are proportional to efforts
  • People who work a lot of hours get more work done than people who work fewer hours
  • Working ‘out of hours’ is not good for work-life balance
  • If people can get their work done is less time, they should get more work
  • Face time is necessary in order for work to get done
  • Instant availability is the measure of great customer service
  • Roles and responsibilities bring clarity to work
  • If you give people control over their schedules, they will take advantage of the system
  • Managers with direct reports cannot work from home
  • The best collaboration is done face-to-face
  • People who aren’t in the office and therefore physically available all the time aren’t really working
  • People who work from home aren’t really working because work takes place in an office

Technology has changed the game – people telecommunicate and do business via BlackBerry 24/7 – but we’re still playing by the old Industrial Age rules, the rules of the factory floor and the typing pool.

Give people control of their time and their jobs and they start to come up with creative, innovative solutions to problems at all hours and in all kinds of surprising places. In a ROWE people work where and when they work best, which means less time and energy devoted to getting to and from work and more time and energy spent doing the actual work.

Time becomes something you truly manage, because it’s yours.

They say that what ends up happening in a ROWE is that the number of meetings goes down and the number of people attending meetings goes down, but collaboration and teamwork actually goes up. The reason is that people are more engaged during the time they are together. People prioritise their work. They focus on what they actually need from people and you learn more about your teammates and business partners because you’re figuring out how you best work together.

Here are 12 of the Guideposts of ROWE that are designed to get people thinking about how we need a radical rethinking of work:

  • People at all levels stop doing any activity that is a waste of their time, the customers time, or the company’s time
  • Employees have the freedom to work any way they want
  • Everyday feels like a Saturday
  • People have an unlimited amount of ‘paid time off’ so long as the work gets done
  • Work isn’t a place you go – it’s something you do
  • Arriving at the workplace at 2pm is not considered coming in late. Leaving the workplace at 2pm is not considered leaving early
  • Nobody talks about how many hours they work
  • Every meeting is optional
  • It’s ok to grocery shop on a Wednesday morning, catch a movie on a Tuesday afternoon, or take a nap on a Thursday afternoon
  • There are no work schedules
  • Nobody feels guilty, overworked or stressed-out
  • There is no judgment about how you spend your time

When people migrate to a ROWE they push one another, they challenge one another, they support one another. Management is part of the process, but management doesn’t drive the process. The people create the new culture

As I read the book I wondered how many companies in the recruitment sales environments would embrace this concept, and although I would (as Cali and Jody discuss in their book) see plenty of challenges ahead in helping companies adapt to such cultures, I can actually see ROWE being a common feature in the future workplace.

It just makes sense.



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