ROWE Management: 8 Benefits for Remote Teams

Virtual Vocations - ROWE Management Benefits

Employee and workflow management are two of the biggest challenges that employers face in the remote workspace. However, the ROWE management style simplifies chaos while improving employee satisfaction and output.

ROWE Management: 8 Benefits for Remote Teams

You may have heard about various management models and styles like the McKinsey 7-S model, Kotter’s theory, transformational management, and the Cersei Lannister management style. Each has their pros and cons depending on the industry, competitiveness, and nature of the work. However, there’s one particular employee management strategy that fits perfectly in the remote workspace.

It’s called ROWE. Have you heard of it? It’s been around since the early 2000s but many employers and managers (even 100% virtual teams) remain timid to try it. In a nutshell, ROWE is a management system that prioritizes paying employees for results rather than the hours they work. Virtual Vocations happily sports ROWE, as do dozens of other telecommute-friendly companies. Read on to learn more about ROWE management and how it complements remote teams.

What Is ROWE?

ROWE stands for “Results Only Work Environment.” It is a workplace strategy where employees are evaluated based on their work output instead of the time they spend working.

Former Best Buy employees Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson developed the concept to remove time as a barrier (or incentive to underperform) and shift the focus to quality and productivity.

Companies that implement the ROWE model let their telecommuting employees work whenever they want, wherever they want, so long as they accomplish their tasks on time and according to expectations. There’s no set schedule, employees are not told when they need to clock in, clock out, or how long they need to work.

However, with ROWE, there are clear consequences for not accomplishing tasks or meeting work output criteria. Employees who consistently fall short of success metrics get the boot. As eWorkPlace eloquently puts it, “ROWE is all about results. No results, no job. It’s that simple.”

What ROWE Is Not

ROWE is not necessarily a work-as-much-or-as-little-as-you-want arrangement, where employees can pick and choose their level of effort week after week.

Some companies like Rev.com, an online transcription, translation, and captioning service, allow their independent contractors to work at their own pace and according to their income needs. In such a case, remote workers can put in ten-hour days one week, then pull only two or three hours total the next. Though this work arrangement prioritizes results over time spent, here are no consequences for not accomplishing any tasks throughout the week. With ROWE, there are usually both quantity and quality expectations, and employees will be penalized if they don’t meet defined criteria.

ROWE is also not synonymous with a “flexible work arrangement,” which usually requires employees to ask permission or agree with managers on when they are going to work, especially outside of regular business hours. Flexible work arrangements still focus on time as the foundation of work output rather than productivity.

Additionally, ROWE is not the same as job-sharing, where two part-time employees complete the tasks that one full-time employee would otherwise perform. With ROWE, each employee has assignments and completion criteria. Other employees aren’t expected to pick up the slack, and managers evaluate individuals equally but separately.

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8 Benefits of ROWE

ROWE gives employees the ability to adapt their work around their lives, which leads to less workplace stress, more work-life balance, and happier employees who stick around. Parents, caregivers, and travelers especially appreciate the flexibility because they can balance their career with other personal priorities and interests. Parents never have to miss their kid’s theater performance because work is running late. Caregivers never have to take a sick day because their loved one needs transport to health care services.

Here’s a list of more ways the ROWE work model benefits both employees and employers.

1. Increased Productivity

When employees know they have to sit at a desk for eight hours to complete one task, they may work slower to receive their full pay. However, if they could complete that task in six hours, still make the same amount, and not be penalized for efficiency, they’d feel happier and earn back two hours of their personal time (or gain time to get ahead on other tasks).

2. No Schedules

Unlike flextime or a flexible work arrangement, there are no schedules in ROWE. Employees are free to work whenever they want or can, and they are free to change their work routines as they see fit. For example, a remote worker could work five hours on Monday, two hours on Tuesday morning, ten hours on Wednesday, two hours Thursday afternoon, and one hour on Friday morning.

As a telecommuter under ROWE, you’re never late, and you don’t get brownie points for showing up early. So, you can put your goody-two-shoes in the closet, pull up your bootstraps, and get work done.

3. Clear Expectations

The cornerstone of ROWE is to establish clear expectations for both employees and management. Clear expectations give employees targets to hit, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of completion and forward momentum. When objectives are clear, employees often have better chances of completing tasks according to expectation. Plus, managers have an easier time evaluating employee performance and avoid playing favorites.

4. Work Wherever

ROWE lets workers perform their tasks whenever they please, which is excellent news for telecommuters. According to our recent National Work and Family Month (NWFM) report:

  • 65.4% of telecommuters have a home office
  • 15.5% perch in a corner nook
  • 9.3% cozy up on the couch
  • 7.9% occupy the dining room table
  • and 1.8% stay in bed

Plus, nothing says you have to work in the same space every day. One day you might work at a coffee shop. The next, you might try out a new co-working space. Then, when the weather’s gloomy, you might stay snuggled up in your pajamas all day.

Also, with ROWE, you can feel free to travel at your leisure without having to take time off. Although Virtual Vocations highly recommends taking breaks to prevent burnout and maintain work-life balance, you’re welcome to work your way across Europe or South America to keep a steady income while you explore different lands and cultures.

Related: 6 Tips to Prevent Burnout When Working from Home

The flexibility of ROWE is also great for military spouses, expatriates, and individuals who frequently move around because of a spouse’s job or other reasons.

5. Increased Retention

Employees tend to stick around longer when they feel empowered to dictate their schedules and work processes. Even if they’re not in their dream job, the sheer freedom of time satisfies them enough to stay put. Therefore, ROWE increases employee retention and reduces the high costs of frequent turnover and hiring.

Related: 10 Things Modern Jobseekers Want from Their Employers

6. Work Focus

When employers dictate or offer flexible schedules, employees tend to focus on time and time off as part of their work arrangement. However, when employees are free to work whenever they want, the focus shifts to the work itself, rather than the amount of time they’re giving up to complete their tasks.

7. Increased Autonomy

With ROWE, employers place fewer restrictions on employees regarding how and when they have to do their work, which gives employees more autonomy. According to a University of Birmingham study, the more autonomy workers have, the more they enjoy their jobs. Increased autonomy also tends to make employees feel more empowered, valuable, and confident. Though many employers are afraid of loosening the reins, with ROWE, autonomy poses little risk and can increase trust between managers and employees, since workers are measured and evaluated objectively.

8. Reduced Costs

The benefits of ROWE compound and lead to decreased turnover, decreased office space, decreased overhead, and increased productivity, all of which reduces overall employer costs. Employees save costs, too, by not commuting to and from work, buying coffee and meals during the workday, or purchasing professional attire and other consumables.

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The Challenges of ROWE

To make ROWE work, it’s critical for managers to clearly communicate expectations and know how to evaluate their employees. It’s equally critical for employees to understand expectations and the consequences of failing to meet them.

Remote workers also face personal challenges, such as overworking, setting boundaries between work and life, at-home distractions and interruptions, loneliness, and a lack of self-management. However, there are numerous tools and resources to help telecommuters succeed, such as the Telecommute Toolkit you receive as part of your Virtual Vocations membership.

Keep in mind, certain occupations may not lend themselves to ROWE. Jobs with regular tasks that are measurable, independent, and have definite start and endpoints are usually good candidates. For example, writing, web development, research, accounting, transcription, data entry, customer support, and sales jobs naturally lend themselves to the ROWE work model.

Additionally, ROWE may not be a one-stop solution that aligns with each employee’s work style or needs. Employees who heavily rely on management or feed off pressure from peers may fail to meet expectations, lack motivation or discipline, or may feel confused, insecure, and unstructured.

However, it’s highly likely that if an employee thrives in the remote work environment, they will love and appreciate ROWE.

How to Create a Successful ROWE for Remote Employees

Together, the telecommuting and ROWE work models make a powerhouse combination that can guarantee continued success for employers and employees. According to creator Jody Thompson, for ROWE to be effective, employees must understand:

  • Their role in the company
  • Their responsibilities
  • Success metrics
  • Consequences of not meeting success metrics
  • That all employees are evaluated equally according to success metrics

The idea is to be crystal clear about your expectations, devise a way to measure employee work output, evaluate output regularly according to defined parameters, and follow through with consequences and rewards.

Related: 6 Tips for Successfully Managing Remote Teams (So They Won’t Be Called Back to the Office)

Find Remote Jobs with ROWE Companies at Virtual Vocations

As a telecommuter, you can find remote jobs with companies that implement ROWE in the Virtual Vocations job database. Now, employers may not always identify themselves as ROWE-based, and we do not classify businesses according to their management models. However, when you read through telecommute job descriptions, you can apply your new ROWE knowledge to assess a company’s management framework. Look for key phrases like:

  • Work when you want
  • No set schedule
  • Work independently
  • Must meet quality standards

What are you waiting for? Check out our extensive remote job list and start applying to jobs that better suit your career and lifestyle goals.

Do you utilize a ROWE management system for your remote teamsConnect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us about how ROWE management could impact your company. We’d love to hear from you!

iStock Photo Credit: 1. dem10; 2. bagi1998; 3. katleho Seisa


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