It’s no secret that one of the keys to happiness at work is a sense of control. With most knowledge workers having shifted to working from home, perhaps with more built-in flexibility, and with managers having had to let go of their need to be able to physically supervise, some workplaces may consider revisiting the idea of Results-Only Work Environments (ROWE).

What is a Results-Only Work Environment?

In a results-only work environment, the focus is autonomy and accountability. Employees are not subject to requirements like being at their desk or available via Slack from 9 – 5. How and when they get work done is up to them. What the employer focuses on is results and only results. If a full-time employee takes only 20 hours a week to fulfill their duties, in a ROWE workplace that’s fine! The other 20 hours are their own.

According to ROWE, this set-up works across a wide variety of workplaces – manufacturing, retail, sales – to increase productivity and worker satisfaction.

A ROWE workplace treats employees more like freelancers – here’s what we need and here’s our deadline, you figure out how and when you’re going to do it.

Is ROWE for Me?

The people at ROWE would say so, but this may not work for every type of work. ROWE will work best where an employee’s deliverables are super clear. It also won’t work for jobs where the employee just needs to be available, for example, receptionists or customer support.

What are the “results” you’re looking for? Getting more clear about what needs to be achieved is probably a good exercise for every workplace. If you can’t figure out what your employees’ “results” would be, a ROWE may not be right for your workplace.

Legal Considerations for ROWE

Like any job, a results-only job should be governed by a properly drafted contract. Additional specifics will be needed around the employee’s job description and the precise deliverables expected of them. In a ROWE workplace, the employer doesn’t get to say HOW the employee does the job, but they do need to be super specific about WHAT the job is required to deliver.

Deadlines are key in a ROWE. You don’t want your employees necessarily working on those results at their own pace, as some may be tempted by all the flexibility to take too much time etc. Obviously, the deadlines also need to be realistic.

Employers may not have much day-to-day contact with employees in a ROWE who are getting their work done on their own terms. Employers will need to make a specific effort to keep in touch and to make sure that employees are meeting their deadlines and producing quality work.

A ROWE can be difficult for workplaces that rely on employees to mentor and train each other. However, building in peer training as a “result” could likely overcome this issue.