About: This is one of the many pieces I've worked on for CultureRx, a unique consulting firm that pioneered what they call Results-Only Work Environments (ROWE). Their founder is a fascinating lady named Jody Thompson who created ROWE using social science based research that revealed the pitfalls of traditional 20th century work culture. She and her team have since been helping companies everywhere utilize a unique blend of autonomy and accountability to design work cultures for the 21st century. I was introduced to the company through my freelance work with Diaz & Cooper Marketing agency and have been helping Jody and her team upgrade their website with pieces like the following.
AUTONOMY: THE SECRET INGREDIENT TO SOARING WORKPLACE PERFORMANCE
What if we told you the whole “flexibility” thing was nothing but smoke and mirrors? Or that allowing your employees to work from their home offices a few times a week does little (or nothing) to boost motivation, performance, and results?
Bleak much? Rest assured, this guide wasn’t created for the sole purpose of ruining your day. But to reveal the real source of the problem and present you with a better, social science-backed solution.
Get ready to learn why the Results-Only Work Environment® has nothing to do with flexibility - or the other policy-based solutions that are keeping your company stuck in the 20th century. You’ll discover how a ROWE® combines a bold blend of autonomy and accountability to create an outcome-based workplace that gets results.
We’ll explain the science-backed reasons why autonomy and employee productivity/success go hand in hand. Read on to learn how to wave your talent war woes farewell and create a work-life blend that will have top talent flooding your inbox with applications.
The Fundamental Flaws of the Traditional Workplace
Would you believe that social science first revealed the major setbacks of the 9 to 5 work schedule over four decades ago? It was in 1979 that Robert Karasek first developed what’s come to be known as the Demand-Control Model of Job Stress.
In plain English, Karasek’s theory revolves around the idea that job demands alone aren’t what’s really stressing most employees out. Karasek identified the true recipe for overwhelmed, unmotivated employees as the following:
Job Demands + Lack of Autonomy (control over how to meet those demands) = Employee Stress
For far too long, companies have been paying employees not just for their work, but also for the ability to control 40 hours of their lives each and every week. When viewed through the lens of Karasek’s theory, suddenly mass social trends like the “great resignation” and “quiet quitting” begin to make a lot more sense.
Not only has social science unmasked lack of control as a key problem in the traditional workforce, but it’s also supplied evidence that restoring autonomy is the heart of the solution. Look no further than Richard Ryan and Edward Deci’s Self-Determination Theory to discover why autonomy is an even more powerful motivator than financial rewards.
Or check out Daniel Pink, whose #1 New York Times best-selling book Drive draws on over five decades of behavioral science to identify the three keys to human motivation. While Karasek pinpointed the recipe for failure, Pink’s book brilliantly breaks down the following formula for success:
Autonomy (the freedom of self-direction) + Mastery (the satisfaction of sharpening key skills) + Purpose (a clear understanding of the “why” behind the work) = Motivation
Keep both formulas in mind, because we're about to compare them to the formula that many employers insist on using instead.
Want to learn more about how a ROWE differs from a traditional workplace? Download our Free Comparison Chart for an in-depth breakdown.
The Terrible Truth About Most Hybrid Work “Solutions”
There’s now more than enough scientific evidence to prove that autonomy and employee motivation are not only interconnected, but inseparable, concepts. Yet countless employers continue to cling to an outdated workplace formula that goes a little something like this:
Time (demanding control over 40 hours a week of each employee's life) + Presence (control over where and how employees work) = Results (Does it, though?)
Think the formula doesn’t apply to your company because of its generous 4-day work week or hybrid setup? Not so fast.
Let’s take a closer look at three different employees who work for companies that have instituted some of today's most popular “hybrid” work programs. As you read the tale of each, attempt to select the one that’s escaped the time + presence = results formula.
Condensed Work Week Walter
First, we’ve got Walter, who works as a media consultant at a top firm. Walter’s firm recently announced that it planned to bestow greater freedom on its employees by rearranging the schedule to give everyone Fridays off.
Now, the company reasons, employees can enjoy the freedom to get sick or deal with unexpected weather disasters - as long they do it on a Friday. Unfortunately, Walter’s kid had the gall to come down with a toothache on a Monday and really needs to see a dentist as soon as possible.
Head hung low, Walter humbly approaches his manager to ask permission to take a few hours off, assuring him that the interruption would not affect his workload. With a sigh, the manager tells Walter he’ll be benevolent enough to allow it this time - but that Walter should take pains in the future to remember that everyone is expected to show up when they are supposed to be there.
Flexible Work Week Seeking Susan
One day, as Susan is hanging out in the breakroom of the tech company where she works, she overhears other employees talking about how certain teams will soon begin enjoying flexible work schedules. Thrilled to hear that the company is allowing the option, she heads down to Manager Marvin’s office to ask permission to enjoy the set-up herself.
After all, she reasons, she successfully worked from home during COVID with no problems at all. Unfortunately, her manager has other ideas and reminds Susan that each team has its own demands and policies.
Sensing Susan’s disappointment, the manager quickly casts the blame on HR, which decides the fate of each team with the zest of a feudal lord. Susan leaves with her dreams dashed. And vague but insistent plans to absolutely slaughter the other team in every single game at the next company-wide picnic.
Hybrid Home Office Howard
Howard works for the same company as Susan but is on a team that was lucky enough to score permission to work a few days from home each week. Thinking he’s won the jackpot, Howard eagerly sets up his home office, where he’ll be expected to plop into his swivel chair at exactly 9 a.m. each morning and work until 5 p.m.
This set-up is perfect, he reasons, as his wife recently had twins. If both the babes should decide to sing the ear-splitting song of their people at once, he’ll be able to duck out and lend a hand. But it isn’t long before reality sets in and Howard realizes that Manager Marvin is still monitoring his computer activity Big Brother style.
In the end, Howard ends up spending most of his days praying that the infant he’s hiding in his lap won’t wake up and blow his cover right in the middle of a Zoom meeting. Regardless, he plans to make the most of his newfound freedom…at least until his company figures out how to install mouse jiggler detection software.
In the above examples, which employee successfully escaped the time + presence = results formula?
The correct answer is:
D) Exactly none of them.
Each and every one of these employees is still expected to work during a specific time, whether it be four days a week or five. They are also expected to be exactly where their boss tells them they should be during work hours, whether it be the company office or their home office.
While many companies are turning to “flexibility” as a solution, they’re still failing to address the true heart of the problem. In the end, employees are still beholden to their bosses for permission on how, when, and where they work - the exact opposite of autonomy.
Want to find out how your company’s workplace policies stack up? Take our free 2-minute quiz to find out.
The Hidden Pitfalls of Policy-Driven Work Environments
At this point, hopefully, it’s getting a little easier to see why autonomy and employee wellness go hand in hand. But the sheer number of employers who are still clinging to the time + presence = results formula must mean that it produces killer results for their companies, right?
Before you answer that, let’s take a closer look behind the scenes with a peek into the life of:
Misunderstood Manager Marvin
You may remember Marvin as the villain in the tales Flexible Work Week Seeking Susan and Hybrid Home Office Howard. It may surprise you to learn that Marvin is well aware of his role as the bad guy in everyone’s story. And that it bothers him more than he’d like to admit.
He spends much of his days wishing his employees could see the real Marvin - the not-so-bad guy who enjoys long walks on the beach and baking casseroles with his wife on the weekends. Yet fate has cast him in the role of antagonist and he’s bound and determined to live up to his own boss’s expectations.
Marvin’s typical workload looks something like this:
- Making sure Susan and her team have yet to go rogue and join the quiet quitting revolution.
- Trying to ignore the fact that Howard is blatantly bottle-feeding an infant during the team-wide Zoom meeting.
- Devising a subtle way to spy on Alan in Accounting, who he’s certain is playing online poker instead of crunching numbers.
- Ordering 20 pizzas in an attempt to resurrect team morale with a surprise office pizza party.
Any focus on the work itself.
Marvin is so busy attempting to control a group of other full-grown adults that he has no time to focus on the results they are (or aren’t) producing for his employer. With no real way to measure accountability, Marvin spends most of his time making sure other people don’t waste the company’s time – yet another concept he cannot measure.
We’ve got a little something for you if Marvin’s plight hits all too close to home. Download our Free HR Success Guide to learn how adopting a ROWE can completely transform traditional workplace dynamics.
The Right (and Wrong) Ways to Adopt Workplace Autonomy
Okay, so we’ve established that Time + Presence does not actually equal results. But why are so many employers hesitant to introduce autonomy into the mix?
Largely because of their fear that it will turn their entire workforce into unsavory characters like Anarchy Andy and Does Whatever She Wants Denise. And the truth is that simply throwing open the gates of unbridled autonomy may indeed produce such results.
That’s why a Results-Only Work Environment is based on the following formula:
100% Autonomy + 100% Accountability = Clear and Measurable Results
Creating a ROWE is not about digging through your old high school storage box in search of those anarchy t-shirts and spiky belts you just couldn’t bring yourself to throw away. It’s about putting the focus back on the work itself instead of how, when, and where your employees choose to complete it.
Notice that the recipe for a ROWE includes autonomy and accountability in equal parts. Sure, your employees will enjoy a whole new work-life blend that includes the freedom to work where, when, and how they want.
But they’ll do so with a clear understanding of exactly what they need to achieve and by when. In an outcome-based workplace, Manager Marvin will suddenly start to be far less misunderstood as his focus shifts from managing people to managing work.
As he works with our CultureRx experts, Marvin will learn the skills he needs to assign tasks with objective, measurable results. As Susan and her band of would-be revolutionaries undergo CultureRx’s patented training modules, their wrath will evaporate as they join a company-wide mindset upgrade.
In an autonomous and accountable work environment, labels begin to disappear, right alongside judgment and office politics. Overseers turn into allies as their focus is redirected from managing people to managing work.
You’ll be amazed at what happens when employees begin to realize there’s no need to sacrifice their personal lives for professionalism. As your staff regains control over their work and lives, you’ll see results skyrocket, morale soar, and productivity climb to whole new heights.
We know what you’re thinking. What about guys like Alan in Accounting who are bound to take advantage of all that autonomy?
Unfortunately for Alan, his days are numbered unless he gets his act together. Remember - along with autonomy comes a whole new level of accountability.
No longer will showing up and keyboard surfing for 40 hours a week be enough to keep the paychecks rolling in. One of the many benefits that adopting a ROWE offers is the ability to quickly unmask employees who aren’t worth keeping on your payroll.
Rest assured that Alan will be offered plenty of support and guidance if he decides to shape up. But if not, he’ll need to find a new office chair to warm so you can make room for the top talent that will soon be begging to work for you.
Ready to GoROWE?
At CultureRx, we’re the creators and leading experts of ROWE adoption and workplace culture transformation. For decades, we’ve been guiding companies all over the world through the process of transforming their companies into Results-Only Work Environments.
And we’ve got to say, our clients have seen some pretty remarkable results. Here are just a few examples of how autonomy and other ROWE-defining principles have transformed companies and the lives of their employees.
Autonomy and Employee Engagement
“ROWE has been tremendous with regard to allowing my team to have autonomy in what we do and building a culture of trust and accountability. All they have to do is make sure they’re delivering results.”
- GAP Brand
Autonomy and Employee Motivation
“Now that I am employed with a ROWE-certified company, my work revolves around MY life. I can be creative, motivated and driven when I feel creative, motivated, and driven. Creating my own work schedule has been very empowering and has had a very positive impact on my attitude towards work as well as happiness in life.”
- JL Buchanan
Autonomy and Employee Wellness
“In a traditional work environment, I found myself at the mercy of someone else’s schedule and often had to miss (or be late to) my son’s after-school activities. ROWE allows me to maintain my priorities. I work more and I work harder, but I do it on my schedule—so I feel great about it.”
- MOJO Media employee
Autonomy and Employee Productivity/Success “Following ROWE training and subsequent organizational certification, [we] are now averaging a 90% on-time delivery rate, a 20% increase.”
Want to see even more proof of what a ROWE can do? Look no further than our Business Outcomes and Case Studies.
Take the First Step Toward Total Company Transformation
Ready to start slaying the talent war and unleash a tidal wave of employee motivation, engagement, and productivity? Sure you are and CultureRx is here to make it easy for you.
If you’ve had enough of the status quo, then contact CultureRx today to book a call with a ROWE Adaptive Change Specialist. We’ll discuss how we can help you join the ranks of ROWE-certified employers who have enjoyed results like:
- 2x the revenue in 4 years
- 15% annual business growth
- 23% less business expenses
- 94% increase in net income
- 50% RIO from reduced turnover rates
- And more!
No matter where your company is or where you want to go, contact CultureRx to find out how to launch your company into the 21st century.