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How Remote Employers Can Embrace a ROWE Management Philosophy

Embracing a ROWE Management Philosophy

Also known as a results-only work environment, a ROWE management philosophy is a popular management style of many newly remote companies. Instead of traditional management methods that focus on the number of hours worked by employees, a ROWE style concentrates solely on the end result. And while embracing the ROWE management philosophy parts with classic management, the results speak for themselves. Yet many old-school and former onsite managers are reluctant to make the transition.

Nevertheless, opting to avoid a ROWE style may hurt your business in the long run—especially as more companies go remote and employees value work-life balance. So if your reluctance is hindering your chance to adopt a ROWE management style, use these tips to integrate the management style and reap the benefits.

A Boost in Employee Engagement and Morale

Embracing a ROWE management philosophy can boost employee engagement.

Employee engagement is a vital aspect of any company. The more engaged your employees are, the more likely are they are to achieve top results on a given project. By embracing the ROWE management philosophy, employers not only boost employee engagement, but also employee morale.

The good news is that these two topics are inherently linked. By promoting results only, you give employees the opportunity to showcase their full breadth of talents, as well as reward them for completing projects before a deadline. Because you put trust in your team, they can provide the best possible product in the least amount of time possible.

In addition, the reward of having time off is an alluring facet of the ROWE management philosophy. This doesn’t necessarily mean that ROWE translates to a reward-based or bonus-based system. Instead, the reward is a job well done that pairs nicely with work-life balance. Thus, the desire of employees to complete a project effectively boosts employee engagement, which leads to improved morale. This win-win-win scenario is especially ideal for remote teams where managers cannot always supervise the team without computer-monitoring software.

Improved Productivity

Embracing the ROWE management philosophy can also improve productivity in short-term and long-term scenarios. In the short-term, ROWE promotes merit and results. Therefore, employees are far more likely to put forth their full effort each time they work on a project. Conversely, traditional 40-hour-a-week positions can breed complacency, especially in the remote realm. When a salaried employee has no incentive for the early completion of products, chances are they’ll take the maximum amount of hours to finish a task—especially if they’re salaried. This is a principle known as Parkinson’s Law:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. If something must be done in a year, it’ll be done in a year. If something must be done next week, it’ll be done next week. And if something must be done tomorrow, it’ll be done tomorrow.” – Cyril Northcote Parkinson, essayist and theorist of Parkinson’s Law

However, employers shouldn’t view Parkinson’s Law as an excuse to set stressfully short or unrealistic deadlines. Instead, they should embrace it as a reason to employ the ROWE management philosophy. The result is almost an instant uptick in productivity.

A Top Talent Attractor

Embracing a ROWE management philosophy can help attract top talent, as it places more emphasis on results, allowing for better work-life balance.

Remote work has been a game-changer to attract top talent. No longer must employers hire from a specific geographic area to hire the best in their industry. Instead, they can select from a global workforce to find the deal worker. Nevertheless, this change in how people and companies work has also left workers demanding new perks, primarily:

On the upside, embracing a ROWE management philosophy plays handily into these demands. Because employers judge a worker’s performance based on results rather than time spent or seniority, the ability to attract top talent is easily attainable. In addition, other employers have introduced a merit pay system as opposed to tenure, which can fast-track promotions for the best talent.

Time to Complete Other Tasks

Managers wear many hats. They play the role of supervisor, motivator, liaison, spokesperson, and more. But with a ROWE management style, managers have more time to complete other tasks. This occurs because the supervisory and motivational roles are two of the most time-consuming. So instead of being tethered to a computer to monitor activity or follow up with subordinates, managers can use that time for other fruitful ventures.

Some of the tasks managers can complete due to a ROWE-style system include:

  • Opportunities to interview more job candidates or review more resumes/cover letters
  • Chances to spearhead new projects or review current operations
  • Build both a personal and professional rapport with employees
  • Set measurable goals or tweak them based on the results of ROWE management
  • Settle any other issues that may arise in day-to-day operations

Through ROWE, managers also can manage stress, which is difficult to address for freshly minted remote managers. The result is a boost in morale from the top-down, leaving a trickle-down effect that can impact the entire company.

Fewer Meetings, More Order

Meetings are a perennial drain of resources and time in both traditional and remote jobs. However, this isn’t always the fault of a particular manager. Instead, inefficient meetings stem from the idea that everyone needs to attend for the purpose of group cohesion. In addition, these meetings tend to drag on and on.

But by embracing the ROWE management style, employers only need to hold meetings when absolutely necessary. Not only does this free up time for work, but it also promotes engagement from employees who’ve grown disenchanted with the meeting process.

Passing the Torch

A “do this or do that” management style may work in some workplaces. But it doesn’t gel with a ROWE management style. Much to the contrary, a ROWE bases its beliefs on accountability and autonomy. This hands-off approach places trust in each individual employee, while instilling the idea that each worker has a task they’re capable of completing. By passing the torch without micromanagement, employers don’t have to rely on strong-handed tactics to get the job done—an idea that will endear employees to the company.

The Cons of the ROWE Management Philosophy

Despite all of its perks, embracing the ROWE management philosophy isn’t all-encompassing or applicable to all businesses or business models. Therefore, management should review and tweak a ROWE policy as necessary. Or, in certain scenarios eliminate a ROWE philosophy altogether. Here are some cons to consider before you revamp your management style or work culture:

Theory X and Theory Y

Developed in the 1960s at MIT, Theory X and Theory Y are two ideas covered in most university-level management classes:

  • Theory X states that most people are inherently lazy and will avoid work whenever possible. As a result, managers must use a system of supervision, coercion, and reward.
  • Theory Y posits that workers have the urge and ability to work. Therefore, workers will use creativity and skills to reach their personal career goals. To this effect, autonomy and allowing workers a hand in the decision-making process is the best method of management.

The problem then lies in personal management preferences or the industry involved. Industries with low-skilled labor may find that a management style revolving around Theory X works better, while more complex industries may embrace Theory Y. In the case of ROWE, Theory X is a potential hurdle, but not in the case of Theory Y. Moreover, if you’re a manager who’s based their style around Theory X, you may have trouble convincing your employees or staff that you have the ability to change.

Golem Effect vs. Pygmalion Effect

Much like Theory X and Theory Y, the Golem Effect and the Pygmalion Effect have a profound impact on the adoption of a ROWE. These two philosophies state the following:

  • Golem Effect: This is the idea that the less you expect of employees, the less they’ll give in return.
  • Pygmalion Effect: Conversely, this idea posits that the more you expect of employees, the more they’ll give in return.

Unfortunately, these two effects have a fatal flaw—in most cases, you can’t lay a blanket effect or theory over your entire workforce. Therefore, managers must (like Theory X and Theory Y) decide early on to employ a Pygmalion Effect in conjunction with ROWE. Failure to do so can end in disaster, disrupting the implementation of ROWE, and possibly even ruining a company’s reputation.

While ROWE management may not work in all business types, even a short trial period can provide insight into its merits. Once you’ve gathered some basic intel and see how your employees react, you can formulate a plan to embrace the style. Not only will this let your employees know that you trust them, but the newfound flexibility and relaxed atmosphere can translate into improved employee morale and a better bottom line—two aspects every manager can get behind.

Have you embraced the ROWE management philosophy as a manager? Are you an employee whose company has implemented ROWE management? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to share your story or advice. We’d love to hear from you! 

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