The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will soon implement a pilot that moves 400 agency employees into a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) -- where employees can work when and where they want, as long as they're meeting their predetermined goals and results.
ROWE is a management strategy in which employees are evaluated on performance, not presence, according to CultureRx workplace consultancy, whose founding members have expertise in ROWE. "In a ROWE, people focus on results and only results -- increasing the organization's performance while creating the right climate for people to manage all the demands in their lives ... including work," according to CultureRx's Web site.
Initially implemented at the Best Buy retail chain in 2002, ROWE was accepted into the public sector in April 2009 when implemented at the Hennepin County, Minn., Human Services and Public Health Department (HSPHD), which is the largest department in the county with a 2,800-person staff.
"ROWE is a cultural shift that focuses on people achieving results," said Deb Truesdell, manager of the health department's ROWE and telework. "We talked a lot about results for quite a while -- ROWE is totally based on results," she said. "People are given permission to change how they do work as long as they meet the results they need. They can stop any activity they do if it doesn't lead to producing results. Like all organizations, we did a lot of things just because that's the way we always did stuff."
During a White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility on Wednesday, March 31, OPM Director John Berry said the pilot could serve as a model for the rest of government. "If flexibility can succeed in the federal government with the unrivaled complexity of our missions ... as well as our red tape," he said, "quite frankly, it can succeed anywhere."
Truesdell said she was excited to learn that the Obama administration is looking at flexible work that allows for life balance. "I believe ROWE is a culture change that can fit in any organization, and have it be a win-win for the organization, as well as for the employees."
As far as the difficulty of implementation at the federal level versus the local level, Truesdell said that shouldn't matter. "I would have to believe that if we can do it at a local level -- especially as complex as our particular department is and the wide variety of staff we have -- if we can do it, it should be successful at the federal level as well."
Jessica Mulholland served as the Web editor of Government Technology magazine from October 2012 through September 2017. She worked for the Government Technology editorial team for nearly 10 years.