At 33 Talent we interview a lot of people who are interested in working with us, and invariably one of their first questions for us is “I was looking at your website and saw ROWE… can you tell me more? It sounds too good to be true”. In a nutshell, ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) means we are given 100% flexibility around when or where we work, unlimited vacation time and no compulsory meetings, and the only thing we have to worry about is getting results.
It is one of our main differentiators from our competitors, and to be honest, most people don’t believe we could really be that flexible in a recruitment agency, traditionally associated with crazy KPI tracking and low trust environment. But we are, and it works!
The cultural shift of ROWE is quite hard to explain to “outsiders” and has definitely taken some getting used to for people who have joined us from more traditional recruitment backgrounds. The main issue we have to get over as individuals is the expectation that colleagues or bosses will judge us or call us out on when and where we do our work. The creators of ROWE call these negative thoughts and comments “Sludge”.
We just ran a training workshop on how to eradicate Sludge and came to the conclusion that in 33 Talent at least, we are far more likely to Sludge ourselves than Sludge our colleagues. Sometimes, we can find ourselves getting excuses ready in case someone asks where we’ve been, or sending out pre-emptive emails saying when we will be in the office. The training session was a good reminder that the best response to a question about our whereabouts, for example, is - “Is there something you need?”. By asking that simple question, we bring the conversation back to results and work, and away from the outdated idea that work is where we are, rather than something we do.
Another thing that takes getting used to is Sludge from people outside of the business. I know from personal experience that if I tell friends I’m working from home they jokingly call me a slacker, or say how jealous they are, the assumption being that working from home = lying in bed, moving your mousepad every 10 mins or so, so that if the boss checks it looks like you’re online. If I’ve had a busy morning and I feel like I’m not being productive in the afternoon and I call it a day 2 hours before my friends can even consider leaving their offices, my job is “easy”.
Every single one of my colleagues has had similar experiences, from friends, partners, family etc. Funnily enough we’ve never had a single Sludge comment from our clients or candidates, all they know is that we do our jobs. It probably doesn’t even cross their minds that we might not be working 9-6 in our office space (just like you probably haven’t thought about whether I was sitting in the office when I wrote this, or what time it was) - all they see are our results and that’s the whole point.
The reality is that we are treated like adults. We know if we’re getting our work done or not. If I do lie in bed doing nothing when I say I’m working, I’m only wasting my own time. If I do leave the office when I’m being unproductive, that’s going to help me think more clearly tomorrow or later today, which means I’ll do a better job in the long run. If I take a few days off because a friend is visiting town, I can enjoy it without feeling guilty that I’m missing work and I make sure I’ve covered anything that might be needed while I’m off being a tour guide.
It can be annoying when outsiders assume that ROWE is an excuse to sit back and relax, but the truth is that we are even more accountable to our results than workplaces which assume that being in the office is the same as getting work done. No one is going to say to us “You didn’t hit your targets this month, but never mind because you were the first one in the office every day this month”.
Missing targets doesn’t mean we’ll be fired on the spot either, but the conversations we have with our managers about making sure we hit the next target will be 100% focused on what we need to do (not where we need to be, or when) to meet those targets.
As we’ve come to see, the people who do well in ROWE are the people who want to do a good job and work hard to make it happen, where or when they do that work is up to them!
If you want more info, you can visit the ROWE website and if you’re a recruiter and sick of working in an outdated environment, we are hiring in Singapore, if you think you can handle it, get in touch!