What if you could come into the office anytime you felt like it, or even stop coming in altogether? What if you could take a late morning run or volunteer in an after-school program but still get paid a full-time salary? What if you only had to work 4 hours a day?
Sound like your dream job? Sure, as long as you’re not the manager.
There has been much ado about Results Oriented Work Environments (ROWE), the latest in work/life balance programs. Under ROWE, there are no office hours. As long as workers complete their projects and deliver results, they are allowed to work whenever and wherever it suits them. Most notably being implemented by electronics giant, Best Buy, ROWE is promised to be the panacea for worker (dis)engagement.
Trust workers with their freedom and they will reward the company with riches.
If only business were so simple.
I’ve often fantasized about working from home. How great would it be to sleep in on weekdays, grocery shop without the crowds, never worry about missing a meeting because of a doctor’s appointment? As an employee, the freedom to not work would be an awesome benefit.
But as a manager, I realize that working from home takes discipline, a lot of it, and that most people don’t have the focus to work three feet from a bed and HDTV. This spells disaster for me and my bottom line.
In my own experience, most people who “work from home” (WFH) aren’t really working (exempting people with home offices or special set-ups who actually do work from home). How do I know this? They’ve told me. I once worked in an office with a very liberal WFH policy and the employees abused it so much that upper management had to revoke the policy. Now no one there is allowed to work from home without authorization from the president. Sound harsh? It probably was, but considering employees would send emails like the one below, you can see why they would do that.
Actual example (altered to protect privacy) of an email sent to all employees at my company:
I will be working from home today. If you need anything my email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my cell is (123) 555-1234.
But I will be watching [insert important sport event here] all day so I probably won’t answer or be much use to you.
See you all tomorrow.
So much for all this extra productivity when working from home. You could make the case that this employee watched the game and then did some work. I can tell you that he most likely didn’t.
In a guest post on Penelope Trunk’s blog, Ryan Healy says this in praise of ROWE:
It’s a win-win situation. Half of the American population will no longer hate their jobs, which will inevitably lead to increased production for the corporations. The only sector that could possibly lose out is pharmaceutical, when clinical depression reaches an all-time low. And that’s just fine by me.
Is freedom from office hours enough of a reason for people to stop hating their jobs?
I highly doubt it. If you hated working in sales because you had to make 50 cold calls a day, would you really be that much happier if you got to make 50 cold calls a day in your bathrobe? If you disliked proofreading press releases, would sitting on a park bench make looking for commas that much more enjoyable? Maybe. Maybe not.
Case in point, the above email writer, someone who took an unlimited amount of “WFH” days to watch football, basketball, soccer or whatever sports event he wanted, with little to no financial or professional ramifications, left after 2 years with the company, allegedly because he felt “unappreciated.”
A change of scenery can’t cure everything.