Boosting Productivity With a ROWE Company Culture

4 min read
Sep 15, 2016

winning work cultureThe workplace is changing. A changing work environment brings with it new challenges to be sure, but it also brings many new advantages so long as you're able to approach the big picture with fresh eyes.   

One of the biggest challenges facing managers today is finding and keeping top talent. In the past, the traditional method of approaching this has been to offer amenities such as high pay or lucrative stock options. While these are still in high demand and likely always will be, there are many other ways companies can attract and build a great workforce. One excellent method of doing just that is adopting the ROWE business model.


Results-Only Work Environment Definition

ROWE, which stands for results-only work environment, is a system that places less emphasis on the dogmatic structure of traditional nine-to-fives and instead focuses on the tangible value that team members are bringing to the table — hence "results-only." What this means for workers is that they have the freedom to set their schedules, so long as they're producing the quality of work that is expected of them.


Why ROWE Makes Sense

Since much of today's work is done digitally, many employees don't need to be in the office for a rigid, specified set of hours. The rise of services such as Skype, Slack, and Google Hangouts has made working remotely much more convenient for companies, and with them has come a rise in the importance of flexible schedules. Take a look at these results from surveys done by Virgin Pulse and CareerBuilder.

  • 44% of employees stated that the number one benefit they'd love to have at their company was a flexible work arrangement

  • 51% say that providing flexible schedules would be the best way to keep employees with a company

These numbers express a simple truth: employees want to be treated like adults. And that's exactly what the ROWE system is all about. It's about combining personal and team accountability with trust from upper management, allowing your team to organically create hierarchies and functional structures by working to achieve specific results — rather than working to clock out at the end of the day.

Flexible work schedules


How ROWE Helps Build a Better Work Culture

Probably the biggest part of building a great organizational culture lies in hiring great employees. Finding people who are hardworking, smart, and capable of producing results should be the goal of every HR department. And yet, even for the companies successful in finding candidates with all of these attributes, the question then becomes, how do you keep them? Thankfully, ROWEs are equally adept at helping organizations with both.


Getting the Right People

As more and more people are drawn to the allure of flexible schedules, a ROWE system absolutely becomes a prized incentive for potential candidates, and there are plenty of reasons why:

  • It signals to prospective employees that your company trusts and respects the people it hires

  • It lets workers know that they'll be judged on the merits of their work rather than how many bathroom breaks they take throughout the day

  • It gives workers the comfort of knowing that if they need to take off for an emergency or special occasion, they have the flexibility to do so without being judged negatively for it


Retaining the Top Talent

Along with attracting talented people, a ROWE system also helps to retain them. Built into its flexible, results-focused design is the perfect framework for a healthy company culture, since the very foundation of the system is based on trust. Trust in the ROWE system is a two-way street:

  • Managers trust employees to hold themselves accountable

  • Employees trust managers to treat them fairly


This type of relationship between supervisors and their direct reports is incredibly important when it comes to securing employee engagement and loyalty. The Energy Project ran an op-ed in the New York Times detailing the results of one of their studies, and they reported that employees who felt supported by their supervisors were:

  • 1.3 times as likely to stay with the company

  • 67% more engaged

Because the ROWE system is centered entirely around allowing workers to figure out ways to achieve results on their own terms, managers aren't nearly as focused on "controlling" their day-to-day operations as they are on ensuring workers are set up for success. This type of oversight is incredibly useful when it comes to making sure employees feel valued and supported rather than simply managed.

Employee engagement

Bringing the Best out in Them

Perhaps most intriguing about The Energy Project's results, however, were their findings on the four main factors that contribute to employee satisfaction and productivity. They are as follows:

  • Physical: the ability to recharge their batteries at work

  • Emotional: feeling valued by the work they're doing

  • Mental: feeling able to focus on the most important tasks and define how they get the job done

  • Spiritual: feeling a higher purpose at work by doing the things they're most naturally suited for

With the ROWE system, these points are addressed naturally, since its results-only approach allows workers to:

  • Take breaks when they feel like they need them (physical)

  • Determine how and when they'll get their work done (mental)

  • Discover the projects they're most suited for (spiritual)

  • Achieve results and receive recognition for their efforts (emotional)

Modern advances in technology have changed so much about how organizations operate that it's imperative for the traditional office culture to adapt appropriately. A ROWE could be the right move for companies where net results are the primary focus. By setting goals and objectives, and allowing your employees to work out how they will achieve them, you introduce levels of freedom and responsibility that have impacts on the core values of your team — values that can have a lasting impact on the success of your business.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.  



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