The management team at Learner’s Edge, an online continuing education company, decided to adopt a ROWE (results-only work environment) policy, developed by Best Buy employees and summarized in its slogan, “Work whenever you want, wherever you want, as long as the work gets done.” Kyle Pederson was one of only three Learner’s Edge employees who showed up the first day of the ROWE
experiment. And the second day, and the third. “For almost a month, everyone cleared out,” Pederson
said. “It was just me, my co-founder and our executive director all wondering, ‘What on earth have we done?’ ” Clearly, employees were testing the outer limits of workplace flexibility. Thankfully, it paid off. Learner’s Edge reported “better work, higher productivity” after the initial phase of the program. It seems employees knew the ways they work best. In fact, some of Pederson’s employees have returned to the office, while others gather at Starbucks or over dinner . . . whatever gets the work done. Suntell president and COO, Veronica Wooten, whose risk-management software firm adopted the ROWE program a few years ago, is also a fan of the flexible workplace. “We made the transition, and started letting go and letting people make their own decisions,” Wooten said. As a result of workplace flexibility, the company’s customer base increased 20 percent, meetings were reduced by
50 percent, and expenses decreased 12 percent (Wooten used the savings to give everyone a raise).
It seems that everyone should be happy with this ultimate degree of job flexibility. Employees worldwide do seem to increasingly value flexible work environments, with roughly two of three workers of all ages wanting to work from home, at least occasionally. However, the benefit may not be as great for some people. In a recent study, 62 percent of respondents believed that Gen X individuals
benefit most from flexibility arrangements, 35 percent believed Gen Y individuals benefit most, and only 3 percent believed baby boomers benefit most. Research correlates job satisfaction most strongly with the nature of the work itself, not the location where it is performed. Thus, while as employees we say we want flexibility, what actually makes us satisfied is often something else. Then there are the costs of such work arrangements. Employers such as Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer have thought
that flexible workers become detached from the organization, communicate less, are less available, and lose the benefits of teamwork. Employees have concerns about long periods of working away from the office: Will out of sight mean out of mind to their employers? For ROWE or any flexible arrangement to work, organizations need to create clear job descriptions, set attainable
goals, and rely on strong metrics to indicate productivity. Managers need to foster close connections and communicate meaningfully to keep flexible workers engaged in the company, its culture, and its processes. Most importantly, employees need to get the work done, no matter where and when they do it.
3-14. Do you think only certain individuals are attracted to flexible work arrangements? Why or why not?
3-15. How might flexible work place more pressure on managers to organize their employees?
3-16. How might flexible work affect a company’s bottom line?
Sources: “The 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study,” WorkplaceTrends (February 3, 2015), https://
workplacetrends.com/the-2015-workplace-flexibility-study/; L. Belkin, “Is ROWE the Future of
Work? Or an Unworkable Fantasy?” The Huffington Post Business (April 17, 2013), www.huffingtonpost
.com/2013/04/15/rowe-future-work_n_3084426.html; R. R. Hastings, “Full Engagement Lacking Around World,” Society for Human Resources Management (January 3, 2011), www.shrm.org/
hrdisciplines/employeerelations/articles/Pages/FullEngagementLacking.aspx; A. McGrory- Dixon,
“Workplace Flexibility, Equity Important for Millennials,” Benefits Pro (April 19, 2013), www
.benefitspro.com/2013/04/19/workplace-flexibility-equity-important-for-millenn; and F. Origo
and L. Pagani, “Workplace Flexibility and Job Satisfaction: Some Evidence from Europe,” International Journal of Manpower 29 (2008): 539–66.
with any paper