How would it be if you could come and go at work just as you pleased? If nobody checked your hours, if you didn’t have to attend meetings and if the only stick you were measured by was the results you achieved?
If you believe the articles the American retailer Best Buy has created that very culture. Employees can:
- Work from wherever they want, be that home, an office, a coffee bar or the beach (the last option isn’t recommended if you live in the UK)
- Keep time as they please, avoid the rush hour, pick up the children, go to the gym
- Attend meetings as they see fit, there are no three-line whips
Managers have stopped worrying about what hours their employees keep, instead they worry about getting the job done.
As the hype says, in a results only work environment or ROWE “work stops being a place you go to and starts being something you do.”
For and against
As with all things ROWE’s aren’t perfect, there are a number of pros and cons.
The pros (which you can measure):
- Employee engagement shoots up
- Undesirable attrition drops dramatically
- Recruitment becomes less expensive (job hunters form an orderly queue)
- Productivity increases (by up to 41% if you believe the stats)
- Facility and building costs drop dramatically
The cons (which are harder to prove):
- There is less accidental employee interaction in the workplace which may harm innovation
- There is a lot of cultural resistance from middle managers
Middle manager angst
I proudly portray myself as a middle-aged middle manager, and the concept of “flexi time on speed” fills me with a whole host of fears, which fundamentally come down to one basic issue:
I don’t trust my staff, they are a bunch of slackers
But here is the thing. I work from home 2 or 3 days a week. Today I started at about 8:00 (in my slippers). I eventually got dressed at about 4pm and then dashed to get the kids from after school club at 5:38pm (it closes at quarter to six and they sting me for cash big time if I am late).
In the intervening period I worked like a Trojan, no chatting by the proverbial water-cooler, no gossiping after meetings and my lunch break consisted of a bowl of cereal eaten at my desk. (Cooking and work place hygiene are not strong points.)
Oh and I just checked my e-mails at 8:47pm.
So maybe slacking isn’t such a big issue.
How to deal with slackers
Most of us aren’t slackers, most of us want to do a good job and most of us deserve a little trust.
When our economy was based on the amount of cloth we knitted or steel we made it was important that we showed up for work, but now, post the information revolution, where we work is a little irrelevant.
Now, I would argue (and I am a bit blunt) that the way to deal with slackers is to:
- Give them jobs that they want to do
- Fire them if they don’t do them (and brutalise them a bit for good measure)
But counting their hours is unlikely to improve the quality or quantity of their output.
As the ROWE crowd will say:
The question isn’t “where are the people” it’s “did the people get the work done”.
Maybe it is worth a try. Click here to find out how to start.
Now, where is my dressing gown?
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Image by Kevin Steinhardt