Can ROWE Improve Your Workplace Productivity?

Last Updated Jun 12, 2008 1:32 PM EDT

533540568_f8d8db7138_m.jpgHave you heard of a work efficiency approach called ROWE, or Results-Only Work Environment? ROWE measures results rather than the time put in by employees and is supposed to increase both engagement and productivity.

The idea is that people can basically do anything they want -- work from home, work two hours instead of eight, nap, take a yoga class, whatever -- as long as the work gets done.

I'm sort of an informal ROWE-er myself, I guess; I don't keep set office hours and am as likely to be writing this blog in a coffee shop as I am to be typing at my desk. Of course, as a self-employed, independent contractor, my boss is pretty understanding. But would I be as supportive of this concept if I were managing twelve people?

It might be more like herding cats than directing a team: Sue is working a short day today, Tom is BlackBerrying from the beach, Rick is working a night shift and Lisa is taking a three-hour lunch. As their leader, how do you make sure everyone is contributing? How do you measure a project's progress?

Then again, this is a methodology employed by Best Buy, and from 2005 to 2007 the company's turnover rate went down nearly 90 percent and productivity rose 41 percent in ROWE departments. That's pretty impressive.

A New York Times article about wasting time at work said both output and job satisfaction have jumped wherever ROWE is tried. A 2005 Microsoft study said workers average only three productive days (out of five) a week, so it's not like they're efficiency machines when they're working in a normal situation. And from an employee's perspective, what's not to like? I can see how your job would suddenly seem a lot more fun if an afternoon viewing of the new Indiana Jones flick was part of your day.

I want to hear what you think, so chime in!

(image by chiacomo via Flickr, CC 2.0)
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  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for and writes regularly for and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.