Technology and Results-Only Work Environment

Wed, 2013-03-20 12:14 -- nitrous

New Tools Open Door for Alternate Work Options

Although it may be hard to believe, giving employees the freedom to do their job when and where they want can actually boost productivity AND let employees lead happier lives.

Technology is rapidly transforming the typical working environment. Video teleconferencing and collaboration tools have changed communication between internal and remote workers. By giving employees the tools to do more work quickly, companies are able to benefit from increased efficiency and bottom line savings. No longer does the where of business dictate how work must get done. Rather communication can take place around the world in real time and across many different endpoints. Computers, smartphones, tablets and the web at large are now making it possible for employees to get out of the office and run businesses from wherever they choose.  In the next few decades the traditional office environment may no longer be relevant at all.

Influenced by reports that a looser work schedule is healthier for workers and the overall bottom line, more companies have begun to offer flexible working hours to their employees. Numerous studies have been released highlighting the positive effects of a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), and even the White House has compiled a comprehensive report extolling the attributes to wellbeing of flexible work policies.

With an extreme ROWE atmosphere, employees do not have a strict schedule that they must adhere to or mandatory meetings and manager mandates, but rather the only consideration is whether or not their work is completed at the expected level. Organizations that embrace a Results-Only Work Environment enjoy staggering increases in engagement. ROWE teams also report on average a 90 percent decrease in voluntary turnover rates and a 35 percent increase in productivity due to eliminating waste from systems and processes.

This type of environment is not practical for every work environment and works best for organizations that are task and project-oriented.  If there are some factors limiting the implementation of a full-fledged ROWE in your organization, then consider the general premise behind it. ROWE is not based on how many hours of face time that are put in, but rather what is accomplished during the time put in. Many companies are already offering flexible scheduling by giving their employees more control over the way they work without implementing a total ROWE.

Studies have consistently shown that employees who are given some leeway to determine their own schedule and location of work have reported better self-care behaviors, including increased exercise and doctors' visits, better sleep habits, less stress and depression, and less work-life conflict.

A ROWE study conducted by Best Buy looked into the health impact of a flexible work environment by following 608 white-collar workers at the headquarters of Best Buy before and after a flexible “Results Only Work Environment” policy was implemented. On average, the researchers found that employees acquired one additional hour of sleep per work night after flex-hours were implemented and were also more likely to exercise. Additionally, they were more apt to go to the doctor when they needed to and were less likely to go into the office when sick. From a mental health standpoint, the subjects reported that they felt "greater mastery" of their time with fewer work-life conflicts, and as a result, felt increased energy, less stress and a self-reported sense of well-being.

"Flex time is a way to get control over work. We can't reduce the overload of tasks, but flexible schedules make it a bit more manageable," co-author of the Best Buy study, Phyllis Moen, Ph.D., McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair of Sociology at the University of Minnesota tells HuffPost. "We're expected to work smarter, do more with less and with fewer people. And what has enabled workers to continue to work with this level of intensity is often that they now arrange when they work."

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