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Results Only Work Environment has Results Outside the Work Environment

More control leads to better health and wellbeing

A study by researchers at the University of Minnesota has found a strong link between new working practices and improved health.

The study, reported in the Journal of Health & Social Behavior, studies the health impacts of the introduction of a Results Only Work Environment at Best Buy in Minnesota.

A Results Only Working Environment (ROWE) is a radical form of the smart working principle of managing by results, not presence.  Its about building a culture of trust and empowerment to enable employees to deliver the results.  It's a way of escaping from the 'time cages' that we find ourselves in, that is 'the taken-for-granted, invisible scaffoldings confining the human experience on and off the job', in the words of the study's authors.

The study was conducted in two waves before and after joining the ROWE programme, with data collected from 659 employees. Around half were on the ROWE programme, and half are comparator group.

Employees were assessed on several scales used for analysing health and wellbeing,  measuring work-family conflict, amount and quality of sleep, personal healthcare management, personal mastery, emotional exhaustion/burnout, psychological distress, self-reported health and energy levels.

Positive health impacts

The study found some positive direct impacts on health:

'Participating in the ROWE initiative directly increases employees’ health-related behaviours of sleep and exercise, as well as the likelihood that employees will not go to the workplace when sick and will see a doctor when sick'.

For all four health behaviours, the authors found that there was a connection with ROWE in that it increases schedule control and reduces negative 'work-home spillover'.

The results showed that the people enrolled in the ROWE programme had almost an extra hour’s sleep on work nights, did more exercise and were less likely to go to work when ill, compared to those who continued their working lives as usual.

By restructuring working times and becoming more flexible, people on the ROWE programme felt they had more control over their schedule. This has been found to be an important factor in other studies looking at a wide range of flexible working options.

Further work by the study team has been looking at whether ROWE has an impact on staff turnover, and whether it can reduce work-family conflicts. 

January 2012

Further information

The study Changing Work, Changing Health: Can Real Work-Time Flexibility Promote Health Behaviours and Well-Being?, by Phyllis Moen, Erin L. Kelly, Eric Tranby, and Qinlei Huang, is published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior 52(4) 404–429 (2011).

The study can be downloaded here from the University of Minnesota website.

You can find further details of the work of the Flexible Work and Well-being Centre here.







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