Why ROWE is a Knowledge Worker’s Dream


The Results Only Work Environment seeks to to make employees completely autonomous but still accountable.


ROWE or “Results-Only Work Environment” is a concept pioneered by Best Buy’s Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson in 2003. Their vision allows employees to remain completely autonomous but nevertheless accountable.

Specifically, knowledge workers are given permission to work at home or take days off whenever they would like. In exchange, they have to remain accountable to expected results. For example, if the goal is to increase sales by five percent, it doesn’t matter how you go about securing those sales; what matters is whether the goal is met.

You can imagine what this outlook does for workers. It makes them feel like they have control of their lives again; and when they do meet their goals, it generates a sense of accomplishment. In other words, the reward system shifts from “Thanks for showing up for 40 hours each week,” to “Congratulations on reaching—or exceeding—your objective.” This type of environment makes workers want to go the extra mile because in the long run they feel empowered.

Slate’s Seth Stevenson reminds us, “Decades ago, sure, it was useful to be physically present in the office…Now, though, we have mobile phones and email and instant messenger and collaboration software. It’s quite easy to get things done from different places and at different times.” This is the obvious reason why ROWE works. The elusive, but far more beneficial result that ROWE offers, is overall employee satisfaction.

Wouldn’t you be happier if you didn’t have to commute in traffic each and every morning? Or if when you’re feeling sick you could go to the doctor instead of feeling guilty for missing a day of work?

However, like any new method that strays from the norm, ROWE has its opponents. Some CEOs, like Marissa Mayer for instance, stress the importance of face time within their companies. What these opponents fail to understand is the complete communication channel work life. Technology has blessed us with the tools we need to work remotely; why not take advantage of them?

Overall, whether a company offers a 100 percent ROWE, or benefits that include occasional telecommuting privileges, workplace culture is evolving. If you’re looking for a position that offers their knowledge workers a generous amount of freedom, make sure you’re branding yourself as a telecommuting professional.