The approach is most notably credited with some significant changes at Best Buy HQ (where I believe ROWE was born) - this included average productivity increases of 35% and, in at least one department, improvement in employee retention by 27% with a 50% increase in cost reductions over two years. Ashley Acker, is excellent at explaining why it doesn't matter where/if employees are at work and how to get there.
You can find other companies giving something like this a go. Netflix salaried employee's have no specific vacation allotment, Motley Fool employees can take as many vacation or sick days as they want, Semco has a 7-day comp policy of sorts, and Ernst & Young has completely flexible holidays.
Awhile back the New York Times discussed how IBM is pulling this off;
"IBM doesn't mandate how many hours you work in a day or work week. And second, they don't mandate which days of the week you decide to work. Third, they don't mandate where you get the work done - at home, Starbucks, or in one of the "e-mobility centers" around the world.
Instead, for the past few years, employees at all levels have made informal arrangements with their direct supervisors, guided mainly by their ability to get their work done on time. Many people post their vacation plans on electronic calendars that colleagues can view online, and they leave word about how they can be reached in a pinch."As awesome as all this sounds, the comments from employees participating in these programs aren't all glowing. Crazy, right? These plans sound so sweet it's surprising you don't hear people praising them left and right. Are they not all they are cracked up to be? In fact, it begs the BIG question: If it works so well, why isn't everyone doing it?
Clearly for many environments it doesn't make sense (retail, manufacturing, etc...). But for the others, I think it's too big a step, even if it might sound like a good idea. I've seen more studies than you can count showing napping at work is a great idea and awakens productivity, but generally we aren't ready to make the pro-napping step. We don't have enough of a handle of our business (and job) goals to feel ok about employees going on a Tuesday morning hike.
ROWE doesn't quite work, and we don't have confidence it can work for us, because we aren't doing HR and business well enough. We don't have good job descriptions, we don't always understand what outcome we want, we don't measure/or know how to measure success, there are no consequences (or follow up), and we don't communicate. You need to have excellent management and engaged employees for it to work.
The idea of ROWE isn't going away. It's a hugely powerful idea, with some workable real applications. It can work if we all (read 'employees, managers, executives') get way better at what we are supposed to be doing - knowing what success is, being accountable for it, being passionate about it, and communicating.
What do you think? Do you want this at your company? Why would it work? Are you doing something like it and it's working? Failing?