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January 3, 2012

R.O.W.E.; for those of you who don’t yet know, this stands for Results-Oriented Work Environment.I have read and reviewed articles from magazines and other publications, including an experimental case-study. These sources detail the pilot program for ROWE and its accompanying statistics regarding turnover rates at the Best Buy corporate office. Many of them contain thought-provoking questions such as:

Will ROWE be successful in my workplace?

Can we adjust ROWE to suit any workplace environment?

Is ROWE suitable for all workplaces or only certain circumstances?

All of these sources seem to agree:¬† more flexibility in the workplace is a best practice for any business and suits any employee’s individual needs, without breaching confidentiality practices in the workplace. “Flexibility to the Fullest” by Patrick Kiger, offers another perspective. He challenges the concept that ROWE will be effective at any company, because some company cultures are built on structured time frames and desk-hours for productivity. He challenges us to contemplate Jody and Cali’s completely results-focused work concept and how effective it would be in a retail environment. I am also curious about how these ideas would be implemented (or adjusted, if that is the case) in a medical environment or a traditional public school environment.

I agree with Ladd Smith’s idea that more research should be done and more questions should be asked to work out the bugs; and, I also feel that ROWE concepts would be beneficial to any company assuming proper investigation and planning was done to assure the most effective use of the program for each work culture. One critical question I encountered pertained to the nature of the flexibility principle itself. Westcott’s article begins with an example of a woman in a ROWE workplace who scheduled time off for personal relaxation via a manicure. When faced with the question of attending the appointment or canceling the appointment, she believed she would send a negative message about ROWE to her employees. She believed she would cause them to feel like the ROWE concepts were not applicable to them as they saw fit to use them. My question to this issue is one for the audience and for personal reflection.

If ROWE is designed to allow greater flexibility by relying ONLY on an employees productivity, and not on the hours spent at their desk, isn’t it each individual’s prerogative to take advantage of these flexibility guidelines as they see fit? In other words, shouldn’t this woman be allowed to cancel her appointment if she so chooses, without her employees feeling like they cannot utilize the ROWE concepts? She is free to make her own choice about this appointment, just as all of her employees are entitled to make a choice about their own days off and what their time is used for when at home.

The entire concept of ROWE (boiled down to one simple sentence) is that anyone can work whatever desk hours they choose, come and go as it conveniences them, and choose if they want to discuss where they are going or why. Example # 1: If I choose to leave my desk job after only working 2 hours Friday morning because I am taking a long weekend with my husband to go on vacation, I am allowed to do so without my coworkers inquiring where or why I am leaving. I may tell them if I choose, but the time is mine to do with as I choose. Example #2: I want to take next Tuesday off because my daughter has a musical competition in another state. I can take that day off and I do not have to justify myself to anyone in the office; not even the manager. The whole idea is to give employees the flexibility to decide if they want to work from home today because they feel sick, or if they need to take 2 hours off for a doctor’s appointment; or even the flexibility to decide to put in extra hours working on a project they want to finish early.

One employee at the company reviewed in Inc. Magazine commented that ROWE also forces people to be more aware of each other and the individual contribution. It causes an understanding of what each employee truly means to a company when they are absent, and it makes the work more meaningful when they perform even the smallest tasks. It is said in the article that ROWE causes employees to focus more on what they are accomplishing, not if they are sitting at their desks playing solitaire because there is nothing to do that particular moment.

David Woodward has an excellent article detailing further that ROWE is a movement from a ‘parent-child’ work environment to a ‘mature and responsible adults’ environment. Everyone (even managers) are afraid of this. ROWE also allows companies to maintain their top talent in a failing economy, David says, because only the best are productive. It is easy to weed out those who are ‘along for the ride’ and eliminate the waste of time and space by having them in the company. Those who are not performing at an adequate level are likely at the organization because they feel like they have nowhere else to go. Leaders would have the ability to recognize this mis-fit between the individual and the organization and offer to help the individual find a better fit; either within the organization, or elsewhere.

Within the article, Jason Fried says he “hates companies that treat employees like children, blocking Facebook and demanding their time in eight-hour blocks.” He continues by saying, “Instead of getting more productivity, you’re getting frustration.” To learn more from the creators about ROWE, read the article in HR Magazine I have listed in the sources section. I intend to read and review their book as soon as possible!


Butler, Kelley M. (2011, April 1). We can ROWE our way to a better work environment, authors say. Employee Benefit News. Retrieved from:

Kiger, Patrick J. (2006). Flexibility to the Fullest. Workforce Management, 85 (18), 1-23.

Moen, P., Kelly, E., & Hill, R. (2011). Does Enhancing Work-Time Control and Flexibility Reduce Turnover? A Naturally Occurring Experiment. Social Problems, 58 (1), 69-98.

Ressler, C. & Thompson, J. (2009). Make Results Matter. HR Magazine, 54 (4), 77-79.

Smith, Ladd. (2009). What Matters More Than Results?. Associations Now. Retrieved from:

Westcott, Scott. (2008). Beyond Flextime Trashing the Workweek. Inc. Magazine. Retrieved from:

Woodward, David. (2010). Can Rowe Workers Really Beat the Clock?. Director Magazine. Retrieved from:


From → Analysis, Questions

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