Finding the Work Style to Match Your Business

“Your Work Hours are WHAT?!”

It’s Wednesday morning and I really want to work from home. The truth of the matter is that I tend to be very productive when I work remotely. Perhaps it’s the feeling of being free to take a break when I need it, or maybe it’s the lure of long stretches of time with limited interruptions.

My first thought was whether or not I should concoct a socially acceptable excuse so I wouldn’t look like a slacker to my co‐workers. But then I immediately countered with, “How silly ‐ Our office offers flexible hours…and I’m going to be working! I don’t have to make an excuse!” Still… old habits are hard to break and, even after three years, I have a hard time justifying a remote workday.

This experience got me thinking… if I’m still struggling with it, how about new employees who recently came to our company from a more traditional work environment? Or what about our friends/family/colleagues who STILL work in a traditional environment and don’t understand alternative working arrangements?

I decided to do some research on popular work environments to see what’s going on out there.  Companies like Best Buy, Yahoo and Zappos have been in the news recently as they continue to refine their work cultures, and I was curious to see what works and doesn’t work.

ROWE: The Results Only Work Environment

telecommuting isn't for everyone

I started out by reading Jodi Thompson & Cali Ressler’s book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results‐Only Revolution. Thompson and Ressler developed the philosophy known as ROWE (“Results Only Work Environment”), which they implemented at Best Buy and which several other companies have embraced (including ours).  Their philosophy focuses on results… it doesn’t matter when, where or how you work as long as you get results.

A big benefit of this type of culture is that your employees feel empowered to work on a schedule that works for them…which gives them more control over their work/life balance.  However, one of the negative aspects of a ROWE is that people can start to feel disconnected, which can weaken your company culture.

Cube Farms: The Traditional “Dilbert/Office Space” Environment

At the other end of the spectrum is the traditional workday.  Best Buy recently cancelled their ROWE policy and has gone back to a traditional work environment.

At Yahoo, Marissa Mayer recently made headlines when she changed things up by cancelling their telecommuting policy.  PCWorld’s article quotes Mayer as saying, “People are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.” Time will tell whether this is a strategy that will help these companies strengthen their culture without losing employees who have gotten used to more freedom.

Collisions: Together, Wherever

Company meeting outsideSomewhere in the middle, you’ll find Zappos.  Their CEO, Tony Hsieh, wrote an interesting article about encouraging more interaction among coworkers. Hsieh says he doesn’t encourage working from home, but he also doesn’t want employees “stuck” in the office. Zappos’ approach is to encourage collisions, which doesn’t necessarily have to happen within the walls of their office building.  He suggests having walking meetings or hosting a meeting off-site.  As long as their employees are having face-to-face interactions with one another, Zappos feels that their culture can be cultivated while also nurturing the outside community.

What Works Best For You?

Here at, we seem to have melded ideas from each of these cultures to make our own unique blend. We don’t track vacation days, and most of us can come and go as needed. We also try to encourage collaboration and culture by hosting internal Town Halls, impromptu barbecues during lunch hour, offsite meetings, and team building events. However, the traditional still seeps through for our customer-facing departments, who have to make sure to provide coverage during traditional work hours.

I think we’d all agree that every company wants to create an environment that brings out the best in their employees, while keeping the company thriving.  Cultivating a productive work environment is hard work…and there’s no best answer…but by putting some thought into what best suits your employees, customer base and business needs, you can create an environment that works for everyone.

Please feel free to share any ideas that have worked for your office! Thanks for reading!

2013-10-18T09:02:43+00:00 October 18th, 2013|

One Comment

  1. Brett Milner October 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    Having been in at least one of these, I can say it’s a juggling act to find what best fits the company’s culture and the personalities of those involved. I find that I’ve been very productive when working from home, but others in my office admit that it doesn’t work for them at all.

    Collaboration and innovation have become the latest management buzzwords (one might ask when they were not?) but it’s also true that eventually you have to stop having meetings and “collaborating” and get some actual work done. I say this working in an environment that is very meeting heavy and should probably have “meeting” somewhere in a few job titles.

    I’m not necessarily a fan of the Collisions approach, depending upon what one does for a living. Designers can probably make the most of it, but as an engineer I’d rather ROWE my own boat.

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