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5 Misperceptions About the Results-Only Work Environment

The Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) is a work platform (culture) with an equal balance between 100% accountability and 100% autonomy for every person. This balance has proven critical to business success and the customer and employee experience.

This approach to work often ruffles the comfortable feathers of the status quo. And from the discomfort comes distortion.

We selected the top five misperceptions to discuss and debunk. But listen, this is not an attempt to be prescriptive persuaders. Instead, we genuinely want to bring clarity to what the Results-Only Work Environment is all about, providing you with the information you need to make decisions about the future of how people work and live.

Misperception #1 – The Results-Only Work Environment is a Remote Work Strategy

To ensure we’re all on the same page, the “R” in ROWE stands for Results, NOT Remote. But even more important, ROWE rejects all labels. And wow, there are a lot of them.

  • Office worker
    Remote worker
    Flexible schedule (We’ll address this next)

ROWE is far more about one’s mindset than it is about one’s location. The focus is on measurable results for clients and customers. Period.

Misperception #2 - The Results-Only Work Environment is a Flexibility Program

Who designs flexibility programs? Who decides what flexibility looks like? Who decides what experiences and what people are worthy of flexibility? Who decides when flexibility is permissible and when it is not?

If you are not making those decisions, it is not flexibility. Rather, it’s permission-based management masquerading as flexibility, an approach to work that has been around for almost a century! And yet, it still hasn’t proven to be a solution that achieves measurable results. The other problem with flexibility, some employees get it. Some don’t. It gets implemented. It gets taken away. Here’s the rub, a flexible schedule is an oxymoron. Let that land. If you have a schedule, it cannot be flexible.

ROWE is NOT flexibility.

And for those of you worried about total anarchy, ROWE organizations balance 100% autonomy with 100% accountability.

If a culture is heavy on autonomy and light on accountability, this typically leads to a chaotic landscape where non-performance is tolerated. There is often a realization in this culture that goals and measures are not clear, prohibiting accountability to measurable results. If the culture is heavy on accountability and light on autonomy, business operations may be strong but at the expense of the employee experience. The heavy accountability/light autonomy leads to high frustration levels, voluntary turnover, and lack of engagement in work.

Misperception #3 – The Results-Only Work Environment Cannot Work in All Industries or for All Roles

That misperception is often influenced by beliefs about location and time. Let’s re-word that one. “Results cannot be the focus in all industries and roles.” Does that still ring true?

This misconception is understandable since ROWE is often mischaracterized as a remote work strategy. But as stated above, it is not. Not even a little bit. Once we get over that hump, the bigger question becomes, “Are employees trusted to make personal and professional decisions?”

Does every single employee have clarity on their measurable results? Do people know what the actual work is? Understanding expected results is incredibly different from asking people what they do. The answers employees provide often reflect activities.

  • How does one know if they are engaging in/applying the most efficient/effective activities?
  • Are people clear about the metrics to ensure the processes, methodologies, and procedures are measurably serving the client/customer?

Everything shifts to cultivate competence in a ROWE rather than focusing on rules and policies designed to ensure compliance. ROWE is for all industries and roles because the relentless focus is on clarity, metrics, and results for the client/customer.

Misperception #4 – The Results-Only Work Environment Has Not Been Researched

ROWE has been studied and written about in various publications since 2006. The research is expansive and encompasses data collected through observations, informal discussions, and in-depth interviews, as well as two web-based surveys at two points in time. Here are some of the findings of the research on employees' productivity and life quality, as well as the health and well-being of their family members.

Results Rather Than Face Time

“[The] Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), . . . allows all employees to work whenever and wherever they want as long their work gets done. Valuing results rather than face time changed the cultural definition of a successful worker by challenging the notion that long hours and constant availability signal commitment (Kelly et al., 2010).

Improved Work-Life Fit

ROWE increased employees’ control over their work schedule and improved work-life fit (Kelly, Moen, & Tranby, 2011).

Improved Employees Well-being

ROWE brought health benefits as well, positively affecting employees’ sleep duration, energy levels, self-reported health, and exercise, while decreasing tobacco and alcohol use (Moen, Kelly, & Lam, 2013; Moen, Kelly, Tranby, & Huang, 2011).” - American Sociological Review

We invite you to dig deeper and explore more papers and journal articles about the Results-Only Work Environment.

Misperception #5 - We’re Already Kind of ROWE or We Can Implement ROWE On Our Own

Respectfully, no and no.

We often hear individuals on all levels within organizations claiming ROWE-esque strategies or experiences are happening. It’s so much deeper than a few managers who don’t “micromanage” or a few employees who feel they have a good work/life balance.

Letting someone work from home is not a ROWE.

Having a remote workforce is not a ROWE.

Giving everyone unlimited PTO is not a ROWE.

A hybrid model with policies around who can work from where and when? Not a ROWE.

A Results-Only Work Environment is a change that will completely reorient how your workforce approaches work. It starts with a grand shift in mindset. Work isn’t a place you go; it’s something you do. Such a shift will lead to incredible outcomes for the customer, generated by a workforce that is treated as the talented adults that they are – not school children who need more rules and directions on how to behave.

Adopting a Results-Only Work Environment requires an adaptive process of shifting your entire organization’s mindset, knowledge, and skills to serve the customer individually and collectively. The change process takes time and attention. At CultureRx, we provide the necessary lifelines to support successful adoption throughout the ROWE implementation. 

To achieve this evolution, CultureRx Master Trainers guide organizations through a 15-month end-to-end proven, researched-backed, and proprietary process.