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Feb 28 2009   8:14PM GMT

Would a results-only work environment make you more productive?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Last Friday we featured results-only work environment (ROWE) as our word of the day and I felt stirring within me feelings I’d almost forgotten. Feelings of hope, glimmers of possibility. Maybe even sanity…  I was thinking back to the first of January, when I was inspired by a fresh new year and a fresh new approach to work and — dare I say it? — work/life balance. For some reason, the first week of January everything seemed to be going to heck in a handbasket. Crises to deal with, fires to put out and damage to control for one thing or another. And somehow, the fresh energy of the new year had gotten stale. But then I was writing about the ROWE and there it was again…

Here’s how Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson describe the ROWE to Tim Ferris:

In a ROWE, each person is free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. Currently, there are two authentic ROWEs—Fortune 100 retailer Best Buy Co, Inc. and J. A. Counter & Associates, a small brokerage firm in New Richmond, WI. At both organizations, the old rules that govern a traditional work environment—core hours, “face time,” pointless meetings, etc.—have been replaced by one rule: focus only on results.

Selling employees on the ROWE concept is not difficult. The issue is…

How to convince your boss

On their website, Ressler and Thompson have a pretty compelling list of reasons that your boss should be interested in giving the ROWE thing a try:

  • PRODUCTIVITY – Get more work from existing workforce now
  • RETENTION – Keep the talent you want; say goodbye to the talent that isn’t producing results
  • ATTRACTION – Be a magnet for the best talent from all generations
  • ELIMINATION OF WASTEFUL PRACTICES – Elimination of unnecessary tasks and processes; communication becomes more efficient and effective
  • A WORKFORCE THAT’S FLUID, FLEXIBLE AND ACCOUNTABLE – Ability to perform in a more agile, 24/7 manner with clear, measurable goals for every employee
  • OPTIMIZATION OF SPACE – No need for 1:1 workspace requirements or hoteling programs
  • LIFE BALANCE FOR ALL – Environment that is inclusive and fair without the headache of managing a flexible work program
  • IMPROVED EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT/MORALE/LOYALTY – Happy employees boost the bottom line, are more dedicated and produce better results
  • GO GREEN – Reduce your impact on the environment by creating a culture where everyone uses common sense about where they get work done – whether from home, a coffee shop or library. Wherever. Whenever.

Ok now, Tim Ferris is the guy that wrote The 4-Hour Work Week so he may take an especially rosy view. I have no illusions that I could do my current job in four hours a day — let alone four hours a week. Still, Ferris raises some good points and has some good advice. For example, he suggests that if you’re trying to talk your boss into a ROWE, you sell her on a trial period instead of a complete revolution. Theory is that’s all it’ll take to convince her of the benefits.

That said, well, here it is lateish on a Saturday afternoon. And I’m tying up loose ends for work, posting to my work blog. Thinking back, again, to New Year’s Day, when I was doing the exact same thing. But, to be honest, I’m kind of in the mood for it. Come Tuesday afternoon, I might not be. And which time am I likely to get more done? I can tell you, unequivocally, that I’m at least twice as productive when the stars align properly and I actually want to work. Especially if I don’t flog myself to sit like a lump in front of the keyboard when the energy just isn’t there but, instead, take a little time to recharge.

And now my memory wanders a few years further back. I was on the phone with Paul Gillin just before I signed my first contract with TechTarget. We were talking about what the terms of my contract, what I would be expected to accomplish. “And beyond that,” he said, “We don’t care what you do. You do the work and you manage your own time.” Eminently sensible, I thought.

Gillin went on to say that they had no issues with people working from home. Then he chuckled — and, Reader, it was an evil chuckle — and explained that giving people control of their own time was absolutely the way to get the most work out of them.

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