Back in the pre-pandemic days of April 2019, a BBC report made a worrying claim about contemporary British workplaces. ‘Presenteeism’ – employees coming into work when they shouldn’t, such as when they’re ill, skipping lunch, or working exceptionally long hours to demonstrate their commitment – was on the rise.
83% of respondents in a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey had observed presenteeism in their organisation, and 25% said the problem had worsened over the last year.
But a few months later Covid hit, and presenteeism was no longer an option. For many people, even turning up for work was no longer an option. As the work from home (WFH) trend grew, another issue arose instead: is work ‘just’ about working, or the results you generate?
Working 9 to 5…
The term Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) was coined back in 2011, by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, in their book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it: The Results Only Revolution.
ROWE is basically the opposite of presenteeism. Employees are paid for the results they produce, rather than the hours they clock up. Companies adopting a ROWE approach give complete autonomy to their employees; they don’t care how and when the work gets done, just that staff meet pre-agreed targets.
When it comes to the traditional expectation of a 9-5 work day Ressler and Thompson asked, ‘Why do we look at time this way? Maybe it is a relic of the Industrial age…when you were not at your place on the assembly line, work wasn’t getting done.’
Since then a few employers have introduced a more flexible approach, and although the outcomes vary between organisations, the consistent trend is lower employee turnover, plus higher levels of employee empowerment, engagement, and productivity. There is less stress, better mental health, and a higher degree of autonomy.
Freedom AND security
The freelance industry has been in on this secret for years; most freelancers are free to organise their time however they like, as long as they meet their deadlines. This flexibility is a reason why many parents return to work in a freelance capacity after having children, for example.
However, freelancers enjoy this freedom at the cost of security, and loss of benefits – sick pay and pension contributions – and of course paid holidays!
A results orientated workplace gives you the best of both worlds, and assuming that you only want to give your best at work, then there aren’t many downsides.
Of course for some occupations – caring and hospitality for example, – this results-only approach isn’t suitable at all, but many employers now offer flexible working patterns, where you have to be in-situ or ‘on-site’ for an agreed amount of core number of hours.
For junior members of staff who benefit a lot from the input and support of older, more experienced co-workers, or those who need a lot of close collaboration, a results-orientated approach can be a challenge. Nevertheless, the WFH culture of the pandemic has shifted most people away from having a physical presence at work.
The results approach in practice
So, what can you do to make a results orientated job as smooth and successful as possible?
Ask for a clearly defined – and ideally prioritised – job description, or a set of timed goals, and make sure you’re in agreement about what is expected from you in terms of measurable results. Then monitor your own performance so that your manager doesn’t feel they have to micromanage you. And if you know you’re not going to meet a certain target then definitely speak to your manager beforehand. Last minute surprises are much more stressful for everyone and as with every area of working life, clear and consistent communication is key.
Also recognise the is a difference between checking up and checking in. Especially at this early stage in your career, you’ll likely need a lot of input and mentoring.
Although it’s important to let your manager know they can trust you, don’t go too far the other way either; you really shouldn’t need to work every hour of the day, or be available 24/7.
It remains to be seen how these new working styles and patterns will stabilise over time, so take this chance now to establish yourself as a reliable, quick-learning contributor who is capable of effectively managing themselves for the benefit of all.
Get the balance right, and a results orientated workplace could be the best career move for you right now.