A Year of ROWEing

on February 21, 2012

The beginning of 2012 means that it’s been a full year since the leadership team of Centresource took an enormous leap of faith and did away with start and end times for the workday, and allowed employees to work from any location desired. Around the halls of Centresource, you’ll hear it referred to as the ROWE system or “going ROWE,” referring to the Results-Only Work Environment philosophy.

The way that ROWE plays out at Centresource is that each employee has a certain metric that he or she is required to meet, such as a certain number of billable hours tracked each week, and as long as that goal is met, when or where it is done doesn’t matter. In order to ensure that employees could still do their job, team members must be reachable on weekdays between 8am and 6pm, either by phone or instant message.

So, now, after a year of ROWE, we thought it appropriate to stop and take stock of what the staff and leadership of Centresource think, with a year of ROWE experience behind them. We asked the team to share some of their initial fears, what unexpected benefits were realized, and in general, their thoughts on one year of ROWE. Here’s what the team had to say:

Centresource President and Founder, Nicholas Holland, commented that on “…the first day of ROWE, the office was a ghost town. Actually, it was a ghost town the whole week.” It stressed him out. “Everyone kept encouraging me to sweat through it and deal with it, and sure enough: the metrics were being met.”

CEO Evan Owens — “I was nervous about the morale / unity of the team. With team members in various locations I feared that we might lose some camaraderie. However, it’s improved as we now have very clear expectations of ‘what matters’ for each other rather than potentially getting frustrated by the smallest things.”

COO Chris Wage — “The flexibility it gives is amazing. Getting sick is no longer an existential dilemma of whether or not I want to sacrifice a half-vacation day to sleep in. I merely sleep in, medicate myself, and then work late. The separation between your home and work life can get even foggier, so you have to be diligent in keeping it separated. We were concerned that our ability to stay on top of metrics and performance might be difficult, but so far so good.”

CIO Chip Hayner — “ROWE has removed all traces of guilt that used to exist around the office: guilt that traffic (or one too many times hitting the sleep button) caused you to be 5 minutes late, guilt that you had to run an afternoon errand (so you worked through lunch), guilt that your lunch break took 10 minutes longer than expected… Instead, these feelings have been replaced with an expectation that a) you’re reachable if needed, and b) your work will get done — something that everyone has easily stepped up to reach.”

Manager of strategic consulting Will Acuff — “ROWE has been phenomenal. I love the flexibility it has allowed me and my family. I’ve noticed a few communication gaps but nothing that has been anywhere close to my worst case scenarios. All in all I think it has been a great success for CS.”

Strategic consultant Patrick Quicci — “ROWE was one of the deciding factors for me in taking a job with CentreSource. I love having the ability to work remotely and on my own time depending on what my schedule entails.”

Strategic consultant Matt Phillips — “I have loved working under ROWE. The biggest shift in my normal 8-5 mode has been avoiding peak traffic times. I live 40 minutes away on a good day, but its taken up to 90 minutes to drive home on certain days. With ROWE, I can anticipate the weather issues and come in late or leave early. That’s time I get back in my life which was always lost. Its been huge.”

Manager of interactive consulting Katy Ludington — “ROWE has been amazing. It has meant less stress and more productivity which has been the key to my success. If I’m up late working, I don’t feel like I have to rush in the office as soon as I get up in the morning. I honestly think I work more since ROWE was introduced because I feel like the metrics we have to hit are more closely monitored and I want to keep the system going.”

Strategic consultant Jon Arnold — “Having come from the corporate world, ROWE is like a breath of fresh air. I’m used to being nagged for not showing up on time. I’ve enjoyed this team’s approach to working together: there is no condescension for not being in the office, and working remotely is actually encouraged. I have found working from home or remote to be so inspiring and productive (although our office and team is pretty awesome).”

Developer David Calhoun — “ROWE is great. It negates a lot of stress about work. I love the ability to just take a break in the middle of the day, if things just aren’t rolling or I can’t focus. I can always just pick work back up later in evening.”

And for more inspiration on ROWE, here’s what inspired Nick Holland to make the change in the first place. First, Nick found this thoughtful blog post on dealing with late employees. The post impacted him, but what really changed his mind was the comments. They took the blog post to task and really suggested a new way of dealing with employees and their time.

And if you have time, dig into this amazing presentation on Netflix’s corporate culture. Nick found it incredibly inspirational for our ROWE implementation. It’s massive, complex, and full of amazing thoughts on how a corporation should treat it’s employees.