Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Think work sucks? Think work sucks?
Actually, yes. Yes, I do.

Ok, let's be clear here: I like doing work but I don't really like the "traditional" work environment (an ironic term given the short length of time we've been working this way). Sarah forwarded me this article on ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) and all I can say is "Yes! Exactly! Has someone finally clued in?". Well, and also "Who came up with that name?". Maybe administrators love the name...

The idea is that you stop defining an employee's work in terms of hours in the office (or even hours worked, period) and start defining and measuring in terms of results. I've been lucky that most of my career so far has allowed me flexibility around the hours I work: a late morning here, a long day there, a banked day from working on the weekend, and so on. And I've always taken the attitude that, if I'm getting the job done, I don't need to feel too guilty if I spend a few minutes looking at a friend's photos while at work. But I've still always had to count hours because ultimately that's what I'm being paid for.

The difficulty with implementing a system like this, of course, is that it's easy to see if someone is sitting at their desk but much harder to determine whether they've achieved what you asked them to do. Plus you have to make sure your employees know what they're being asked to do. This may take more effort from managers to define tasks, set goals, and establish metrics. You might have to actually have those performance review sessions and dust off the 360 degree evaluation forms. But isn't this what managers are supposed to be doing anyway?

The end result is that there is just no excuse for not getting work done. As far as I can tell everyone wins, except possibly the guy in the back corner who hasn't done any actual work in 20 years. Maybe he gets motivated and actually finds himself happier? Maybe that's wishful thinking...

P.S. I don't think this ideas at the root of this are new or particularly insightful but if it's being adopted at all (and apparently Best Buy uses it) then that seems new.

P.P.S. What happens when employees start to feel like they're just being given a "harder" task than their co-workers?

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