Potentials for Results Only Work Environment (ROWE)

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The Results Only Work Environment (abbreviated ROWE) is a human resource management model that measures employee output, as opposed to correlating salary and compensation to the number of hours an employee works (Ressler & Thompson, 2010).

Under the ROWE system employees can work when they want, and wherever they want — as long as they get the job done.

    In a ROWE
  • Each employee is able to make better choices about when and where they are most productive
  • Each job has concrete, measurable goals and expected results
  • Each employee is responsible for managing her/his work and meeting her/his expected results
  • How the work gets done is up to the employee
  • Performance is measured by results, not time or physical presence
  • A team-based approach drives cross-training
  • Supervisors support employees as they work to achieve their goals.

How is ROWE different from an ordinary “flexible schedule”?

A ROWE gives each person control over her or his time and is not a “program.” It is intended to bring about a complete cultural transformation that permeates an entire workplace, leveling the playing field and giving all employees the opportunity to come and go as they please as long as performance expectations are met, and the work is getting done. In the federal workplace, of course, the law requires employees to work 80 hoursOpens in new window each pay period. Nonetheless, employees participating in a ROWE in the federal workplace will be able to do their best work in the way they work best.

A traditional flexible schedule provides employees with flexibility to report to work within prescribed times within the workweek or biweekly payroll period. In a ROWE, this flexibility of when and where to do your work is enhanced, and employees have the maximum flexibility to decide when it is necessary (or not) to work, and when it is necessary (or not) to report to their traditional worksite.

The focus of a ROWE is on performance not presence at the office under standard work schedules.

Traditional programs can provide some flexibility. In traditional programs, managers decide which employees are granted the ability to work in a flexible manner whereas in a ROWE, everyone is part of the environment. If performance suffers and does not improve with coaching, employees are subject to consequences for their poor performance, just as they would be under more traditional schedules. Of course, the move from a “traditional” work environment to a ROWE is an adaptive change.

It is a cultural shift that questions and transforms how and why people work the way they do. Migrating to a ROWE involves a series of experiential sessions that systematically remove the restrictive powers of time, judgment and beliefs about the way work needs to happen.

In a ROWE, the belief that work only happens Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. is no longer true.

In a ROWE, people get credit for the work they do, not when and where they do it.

For example, if an employee is not working on Wednesday, but is working on Saturday, that is fine. All that’s important is that the work is getting done and the employee is fulfilling the 80 hours in a biweekly pay period.

What about traditional business hours?

Employees have the ability to manage how the work gets done and their time within the context of their particular job:

  • If a particular job can be done during non-traditional work hours, employees can choose to do so, provided the results are achieved and they put in the required hours.
  • As long as results are achieved, employees have control over where and when they work within the context of the type of work they do.

How about overtime pay and compensatory time off? Can an employee still receive them in a ROWE?

Yes. Any overtime pay or compensatory time off earned under ROWE must, however, be officially ordered or approved in advance by the supervisor.

For employees who voluntarily choose to work more than 8 hours in a day or 40 in a week (with a total of not more than 80 hours in a biweekly pay period), the work is not considered overtime hours.

Hours of work officially ordered or approved in advance by the supervisor beyond the basic work requirement for the pay period (80 hours per pay period), are subject to the normal rules governing overtime work and compensatory time off.

What about my leave plans?

ROWE will not affect an employee’s ability to request and take leave (annual, sick, military, court, leave without pay).

The administration of leave programs will be handled the same for ROWE employees as it is for non-ROWE employees.

Employees will follow the normal procedures for requesting leave. Employees should carefully plan the use of leave throughout the biweekly pay period and assure they combine the number of hours of work and leave, if any, to account for an 80 hour biweekly pay period. Except for circumstances beyond the employee’s control, leave should be requested in advance and approved by the supervisor.

Can an employee work on Sunday?

Employees are able to work Monday through Saturday based upon their personal needs and the job. Due to Sunday premium pay cost, employees will need advanced approval to work and be paid on Sundays.

How about holidays?

Employees are not normally permitted to work on holidays due to additional costs associated with holiday premium pay. Employees should not work holidays unless officially approved in advanced by the supervisor. If the employees is officially ordered and approved to work on the holiday, she/he will receive premium pay equal to 100 percent of basic pay.

When holidays fall during a normal, 80- hour biweekly pay period, employees are expected to work a total of 72 hours (80 hour biweekly pay period – 8 hour holiday), and their T&A reportOpens in new window should reflect the 8-hour holiday on the actual day of the holiday. Holidays are observed on the actual holiday unless the holiday falls on a Sunday in which case the holiday is observed on Monday.

What about sick leave? Can an employee be too sick to come into work but still work from home?

Each pilot organization will need to address “sick” leave differently. However, the basic question is this: can employees contribute to their team in a productive way (i.e. produce results) while ill or working from another location?

Employees need to work with their team to determine what choices they have, but if they are ill they are entitled to the sick time that is available to them. In most cases, they would not be obligated to take sick time if they are able to make up the hours in the same biweekly pay period.

Employees have the option to find a way to fit in the hours throughout the biweekly pay period instead of taking sick leave. One thing shared with staff is that the mindset of, “you are working from home, therefore you are not contributing to the team” needs to change.

Employees may be able to work for a few hours that day at home, but not well enough to come into the office. This is still a positive for the team: they are contributing to the team from home in some capacity.

Unless employees request leave, employees do not need to get permission to account for their work throughout the week. The supervisor needs to certify that employees work 80 hours per biweekly pay period or have taken leave.

With employees coming and going at different times, how will work get done?

Supervisors will continue to set clear, measurable expectations in the elements and standards in employee performance plans, with input from employees. In addition, individual discussion time will be utilized during employee meetings to identify any issues or concerns about the work. During these meetings, supervisors and employees can discuss how goals are being accomplished and results are being achieved.

The way in which employees and teams achieve results may not fit into traditional paradigms of how we think about the work day. Managers and supervisors will work with employees and teas to provide ample opportunity to explore efficient ways to produce results.

If I complete my work in less than 40 hours, will I get paid for less?

Federal employees get paid only for time worked. They must work at least 80 hours within the biweekly payroll period or use leave, compensatory time off, or credit hours to make up the difference.

Employees under ROWE, however, have much greater scheduling flexibility within an 80-hour biweekly payroll period. Employees could balance hours within a biweekly payroll period, working more hours in one week and fewer hours in the next, work extended days, or work Saturdays — all in an effort to flexibly and creatively accomplish their goals. However, employees must still account for 80 hours during the biweekly pay period.

What about employees who need more supervision?

In a ROWE, employees are expected to meet goals and expectations regardless of when and when they are working. It is everyone’s responsibility to be clear about what she/he needs to deliver.

It is the responsibility of the supervisor and/or manager to monitor and determine whether the goals and expected results are being met and act when those goals and expected results are not being met.

How will expectations and results be identified in our ROWE?

ROWE focuses upon results and figuring out the best way, as a team, to reach those results.

In the private sector ROWE model, the most successful ROWE teams come to an agreement on the outcomes they are working toward, and then arrange/divide the work according to who has the skill sets, energy, and passion to do it.

The theory is that if work is continually being distributed “from the top,” the team will miss natural efficiencies and productivity that could be driven by the employee group determining who should be completing the work.

Although in the Federal Government, assignment of work is a management right, managers and supervisors will continue to seek employee involvement to develop, communicate and achieve the ultimate results.

If some employees in the work unit/team are clearly relied upon to complete more work than others on the team, this is not in alignment with the ROWE philosophy, and the strategy described in the previous paragraph should be utilized to return balance to the team.

Will ROWE force some employees to switch jobs even though they enjoy their current job?

No. It is not the goal of ROWE to force employees to switch jobs.

ROWE is all about being more efficient, effective, and productive in the current job. Management retains the right to reassign based on need, however, regardless of ROWE.

If performance standards are being met, how does productivity increase?

In a ROWE, employees are given more control over their time, and employees are encouraged to stop doing anything that is a waste of time. The theory is that this control and encouragement allows employees to become more efficient with their time and look at ways to work smarter.

Discovering efficiencies and working smarter should lead to increased capacity, and ultimately increased productivity. This does not mean that supervisors automatically will request their employees to produce 25 percent more; this means that the employees will find ways of working that are smarter and better.

Does the concept that no meetings are mandatory really mean that no meetings are mandatory?

In a ROWE, meeting planners will need to be explicit and clear about the purpose and outcomes expected from a meeting so that all invitees understand the linkage between a meeting and the employee’s results.

If an employee is unsure if the meeting will help them reach their results, the employee should ask clarifying questions surrounding the purpose of the meeting.

Employees need to participate in meetings that relate to achieving their results or the results of the organization. If an employee chooses to decline a meeting that impacts their results, it will be addressed as a performance issue.

Is it okay for children to be present while a ROWE worker is performing work tasks?

Children may be present while a ROWE worker is performing work tasks only if the child’s presence does not affect the work results. Employees should use their best judgment. If the child impacts the work results, the employee should work other hours to account for her or his 80 hour work requirement.

How will timesheets be different? Will ROWE workers record their hours?

ROWE employees will still have to track their time and attendance in order to be paid. T&A timesheets must be completed for each pay period.

Employees have maximum flexibility permitted by law and regulation to choose the hours they work, but will be required to fill in the time they worked during an 80-hour biweekly pay period. Pay periods begin and end on the same dates as the normal GSA-OPM payroll cycleOpens in new window.

For example, if an employee works on Saturday, that time will be documented. If an employee then takes Monday off, for example, no time would be recorded. Time sheets could look like this:

Monday: 2 hours, Tuesday: 10 hours, Wednesday: 10 hours, Thursday: 8 hours, Friday: 8 hours, Saturday: 2 hours
Monday: 0 hours, Tuesday: 9 hours, Wednesday: 9 hours, Thursday: 9 hours, Friday: 8 hours, Saturday: 5 hours.
All of these hours equal 80, which all full-time employees are required to work within a pay period.

How will work be distributed in a ROWE team vs. a non-ROWE team? Will ROWE workers be assigned more work

Being in ROWE does not mean an employee will have more work. In most circumstances it is contemplated that the employees decide together how to get the work done. Managers, supervisors, and staff work together to determine results. Through ROWE, employees will discover how to work smarter and more efficiently.

Who will decide when a ROWE worker will come into the office to work – the ROWE worker or the supervisor?

The employee will decide where they need to be based on their understanding of the requirements discussion with their supervisor.

ROWE is not a Remote-Only Work Environment. If employees’ results require them to be in the office (seeing people with whom we are working or members of the public, for example) that is where employees need to be. If employees can do their work from another location and meet their results, they can work at another location. In many cases, this is also dependent upon working with the team and working well with others.

If there is a performance issue, an employee may be put on a performance plan that may require her/him to be in the office on a regular basis for coaching, mentoring, or training purposes.

If ROWE workers are expected to have and use their personal internet connection, what if the ROWE worker has a dial-up connection?

If employees choose to work from home, these employees must obtain/purchase internet access that allows them to do their job effectively. A dial-up connection will not provide the speed necessary to complete the job in a manner that will meet results. Therefore, employees would need a work location that does.

Can a ROWE worker log more than 10 hours of work per day?

Yes, ROWE employees can log more than 10 hours of work in a day as long as the employee does not over 80 hours in a pay period without permission. If an employee expects to go over 80 hours, she/he must receive prior approval from the supervisor.

ROWE workers must abide by the same laws, regulations, labor relations, union contracts, and human resources (HR) rules that they have always followed. Being a ROWE employee does not exempt you from these regulations. An employee who voluntarily works more than 10 hours in a day will not be eligible for overtime pay unless the hours are in excess of 80 hours in a biweekly pay period.

How does telework fit with the ROWE principles? With this scenario, what work can be done at home?

ROWE and teleworkOpens in new window are not the same. Not all employees are part of a ROWE, so the Telework PolicyOpens in new window will remain in place. When ROWE employees choose to work away from their official site, they are responsible for complying with IT policies and procedures and maintaining the confidentiality of private and confidential data.

Does night pay apply to a worker in ROWE who may work evenings or nights, in the same way it applies to a non-ROWE employee who would work days?

No. If an employee under ROWE chooses to work various hours, that is her/his choice. OPM is not responsible to pay night pay when an employee chooses to work such hours. If an employee is directed by her/his supervisor to work during the night pay hours (6 p.m. – 6 a.m.), the employee will be paid accordingly.

What will ensure that ALL management is on board and following through on this initiative? Who will watch the watchers?

If there is a concern about a member of management behaving in a way that is not aligned with ROWE, have a conversation with her/him about the behaviors that should be changed. If the behavior continues, please inform the ROWE team at the following email address: [email protected]

In a ROWE, what is the best way to know when people are working?

If there is a need, based on results, to connect with a co-worker, proceed with using the communication tools we have today: email, phone, face-to face contact, etc. If meetings or other interactions need to be scheduled, shared calendars can be utilized for determining availability.

Will we have core hours?

Each organization will establish at least 2 core hours on each of 2 designated days each pay period during which all employees must work. Subject to discussions with supervisors on performance and results and supervisory approval, employees may:

  • Use leave or previously earned credit hours or compensatory time off to account for hours not worked; or
  • Work the core hours at another time within the same workday, or another day within the pay period.

If the building is closed, do employees still have to work?

Yes. Normally, employees in a ROWE continue to work their 80 hours in the biweekly pay period even when the facility is closed. However, in special circumstances, where the employer is directly impacted, excused absence may be appropriate. Your supervisor will provide additional information as circumstances warrant.

In a ROWE, will employees be able to earn and use credit hours?

Yes. Credit hours are hours which are in excess of the employee’s basic work requirement and which the employee elects to work so as to vary the length of a workday or workweek. Credit hours may be earned and accumulated up to a total of 24 hours in any one pay period. The employee may elect to work and use credit hours without supervisory permission.

    Adapted from the Work-life Programs: Attracting, Retaining, and Empowering the Federal .. Courtesy of the United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia.