Living in a ROWE

So, it’s been a little over three months since I posted my original thoughts on ROWE, and with several of my colleagues away today at a ROWE learning session with Jody Thompson now seems like as good a time as any to follow up.

What ROWE means to each of us is a highly person thing – and so it should be – but during the past months I’ve developed a much clearer picture of what ROWE means to me. I won’t bore you by documenting how I spend a typical day because the whole point is that’s a detail for each of us to figure out on our own, but I’ve settled into something of a routine that I think works best for me. I believe I’m more productive as a result. I didn’t feel stressed before so I’m not sure I’d say that ROWE has helped in that regard, but I would say that ROWE has helped me drive an internal focus on what’s really important – I now do whatever it is that’s the highest priority for me in any given moment. If it’s 10am on a Tuesday then that’s usually a work related task, but if it isn’t and it’s more important to me to spend time with my girlfriend or take some me time and watch a movie then I don’t feel guilt about doing that either.

Most crucially (and unexpectedly to me) what ROWE has given me is increased confidence in myself and my approach to my work. Previously when I received an email asking me to help with something they believed to be “on fire” I would jump on it, probably to make myself look good, and I could end up filling my entire day with little items of that type. Now I stick to my own priorities and help with others when I have time to. This sounds like a bad thing and that I’ve made myself into less of a team player, but as it turns out that really doesn’t seem to be the case. I don’t mean that I stick stubbornly to the plan I formulated my day first thing that morning – I allow my priorities to shift and I react to what’s going on around me – but in my (admittedly still limited) new-found experience things that are “on fire” never turn out to be as important as they first appeared and taking some time to gather my thoughts before taking action almost always leads to a better approach to a problem anyway. In a nutshell, it turns out I’m most effective when I concentrate my efforts on big things that are important rather than small things of questionable priority. Of course this seems obvious when I articulate it in this way but for some reason it just wasn’t clear to me before I made a conscious effort to embrace the ROWE guideposts.

The largest contributing factor to the success of ROWE from my personal standpoint is by far the support of my leaders. Not only do they talk about supporting ROWE, but I see from their actions that this is true and, more than that, they’re embracing the same methods of thinking about their work that I am.

The largest challenges represented by ROWE are, for me at least, still the technology ones. I’ve never wanted my organization to provide me with a cellphone, but now I find myself envious of those that have one because they can step away from their computers without cutting themselves off from the world of work. That being said, I’ve come up with the best solutions I can on my own – I have lync on my personal phone, I’ve changed the settings on my voicemail so that I get an email alert to my personal phone if somebody leaves me a message and my outgoing message now advises and lets callers press 0 to try reaching me in a location independent way. I achieved this by getting a new phone number especially for the purpose from a third-party provider. When you call it my desk phone, cell phone and home phone all potentially ring simultaneously, and I can configure the exact behavior from a control panel online. I updated the phone number listed for me in the corporate directory to this new one. The ability to check my work email from wherever I happen to be is really the only thing missing.

And I still fall down at “every meeting is optional.” I get the concept, but it’s going to take quite some time for me to buy in to that one, I think.

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