Initial Thoughts on ROWE

Along with a few of my colleagues I’ve recently started reading “Why Works Sucks and How to Fix It.” I’m only a few chapters in, but I wanted to share my initial thoughts, get people’s input, and also post something I can return to once I’ve learned more to see if/how my initial observations change.

  • Matt introduced me to ROWE through the 13 guideposts. My first thought was that I already work that way to a certain extent, but that some of the guideposts were just unrealistic and didn’t really apply to the real world. Not true. The guideposts are deliberately big and bold and shocking but none of the concepts that embody ROWE are new ideas – I don’t recognize the “corporate America” that the book describes because that’s just not where I work. The more I think about it though the more partly embracing ROWE seems harder than jumping in with both feet. Clearly I work somewhere in between the corporate America embodied by the BestBuy of old and a full ROWE, so where’s the line I can’t cross? Nobody knows.
  • There’s a lot that’s attractive to me about the idea of a ROWE, and one of the key things is the ability to get up in the morning and have the freedom to decide whether I’m going to go into the office or not. Maybe I do, or maybe I work from home, or maybe I check my email, organize my thoughts about my ongoing tasks and then head to my desk later once traffic has died down. A full ROWE might offer me yet more options (maybe I just don’t work at all that day), but I probably already have the freedom to make the choice as I described it. Little doubts about what’s acceptable and what’s not usually get me in the car and out the door to sit in traffic for 35 minutes though.
  • I have a good work/life balance now and I don’t feel stressed about my work, but if for some little reason I’m slower in the morning and later than usual leaving the house, I do feel anxious about it. The reality is that nobody notices if I get to my desk 10 minutes later than I did the previous day, and even if they did they probably wouldn’t make an internal judgement about it, and certainly wouldn’t vocalize a judgement in the form of sludge. My colleagues just aren’t like that, so why do I feel that way?
  • …Because the biggest barrier to a ROWE right now isn’t my boss or my colleagues, but it’s internal to me. I could probably go grocery shopping on a Wednesday morning if I wanted to. As long as I wasn’t skipping any prearranged meetings to do so then frankly I doubt anyone would even notice. I don’t do it because it doesn’t feel right.
  • I’m not good at not working. Sometimes I need the clock to tell me I’ve done enough that day. Sometimes I need my boss to make me leave. When my workload is less, I’m good at finding work to fill my time. This stuff is more than busywork (or at least I like to think so) – there really is some value to it. The biggest thing I’d have to work on in a ROWE would be not burning myself out by working all the time.
  • I don’t have a company provided cell phone. I can sign in to Lync on my personal phone and I do, but if I’m away from my computer I can’t get my email, and if I’m away from the office I don’t get calls from people who phone the number that’s listed for me. I have my personal cell phone number listed in the corporate directory to help with this and I have my desk phone set up to send an email notification to my personal email address (which I get on my cell) if someone leaves me a voicemail, but I’m strongly in favour of implementing a BYOD (bring your own device) policy that would let me get my work email on my personal cell and forward calls from my desk to whatever number I choose. The technology is already there, someone just has to turn it on. My desk phone can forward calls, but policy says I’m only allowed to forward them to a corporately-provided cell phone. The app that makes corporate phones secure is available for my Android device. I tried downloading it and signing in, and I got a message that said my device met security policies, but my login ID wasn’t enabled for mobile email. The end result being that if I want to go and do some work-related thinking in a park then I need to either make myself unavailable to my colleagues or find a park with WiFi and take my laptop. So I don’t do either, and I stay at my desk.
  • Half way through chapter one of the book I was struck by a desire to unset my alarm clock that won’t go away. If learning more about ROWE results in me pushing for changes in my working environment, this will probably be my primary motivation. Despite my assertion that I have a good work/life balance I finish most weeks tired and in need of the break the weekend represents, and to me personally my alarm clock embodies the reason for this. I try and organize my time so that nothing needs to be done on Friday afternoons, because by then I’m tired and it’s not my most productive time. Which really leads to another key point about ROWE: I don’t do stuff on Friday afternoons unless I need to. Why are Monday mornings any different?

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