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The Relevance of Results

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Can flexible workplaces change the way we do business? This question was recently explored during a mid-morning discussion on Minnesota Public Radio.

Best Buy and The Gap are no strangers to a results-only workplace environment, or ROWE, and progressively more companies are discovering the benefits of this type of arrangement. Rather than placing emphasis on such particulars as when and where employees do their work, the focus is on employee results. And, big surprise, it turns out that workers are actually happier, more productive and loyal to their employers under a ROWE model.

But regardless of the many benefits, there are managers out there who are resistant to dipping even a toe in ROWE waters. Perhaps it’s because flexibility of time and place alters the makeup of a traditional manager’s raison d’tre, which is to see with his own eyes that employees are toiling away at their desks.

But whether or not these industrious employees are actually working on work-work at their desks seems secondary to their proximity to said desks. Employees who look busy might not be working at all, but instead busily tending virtual farms, intently checking team scores or absorbed in the latest online issue of their favorite magazine. Even so, settling into a desk at the designated time appears to trump the relevance of results. Quite frankly, in some work environments, it’s less about working and more about keeping up appearances.

This could explain why the notion of results-only is considered by some to be a radical shift from the traditional workplace model. Of course, it certainly shouldn’t be. It seems silly to even have to write that. Employees are hired for a particular job with the expectation that they will, in fact, get the job done efficiently and effectively.

I’ve had my share of jobs that were bound by firm start and end times, but the job functions themselves weren’t inherently tied to a particular time of day. And the tasks I was hired to do – writing, editing, proofreading and researching – were definitely not bound by place. Even so, there was no doubt that I was expected to be present and ostensibly working from start time to end time.

I don’t want to shock anyone, so brace yourselves: Looking busy is a workplace strategy employed by many workers in every conceivable industry. It’s just shocking, I know. And some people are true masters of this workplace deception, though it seems that avoiding work just becomes another form of work that issues forth its own unique strain of workplace stress.

Pretending to be busy just to satisfy the clock and a narrow-minded manager really is a colossal waste of precious time — and not just the company’s. We workers have just a finite amount of time here on earth. Why squander the best parts of our days looking busy? I have no doubt that focusing on workplace minutia rather than on results, accountability and productivity has made many managers into pricy babysitters and many employees into toddlers who need constant supervision to make sure they’re coloring within the lines.

Experts suggest that a ROWE model increases overall productivity because it intensifies an employee’s relationship with work in that they feel a far greater sense of ownership and control over their work, and therefore, a greater accountability to producing desirable results. Or maybe they just feel all grown up.

Does your team or company work in a ROWE model? What have been your experiences with it?

Photo Credit: wbaiv

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  • Natalya I. Sabga

    Jennifer- great article and so very valid! I agree with everything you wrote! Large consulting conglomerates, such as Deloitte Consulting LLP, have begun to implement dedicated “Results-Management Offices ” which are responsible for not only achieving project outcomes, but more importantly, ensuring that the organization’s efforts realize the rewards for the specific project. I am a big believer, particularly as workshifters, that we are our own ‘CRO’ (Chief Results’ Officer) – and as such, are responsible for measuring and taking pride in the achievement of our goals.

    • Jennifer Marcus Newton

      Natalya, I don’t know how I missed your lovely comment. I really like the concept of CRO–in work and in life. What are some of your strategies for measuring your professional achievements as a workshifter?