Work-Life Balance, A New Definition

4417778609_e9959f22d0When you were a child and played on a see-saw the last thing we wanted was to sit still, perfectly balanced. Ideally you would have partners that would work with you. At times you are the one that would be doing the pushing, while at others you enjoy the ride. In control and working together you experience the maximum performance with the least amount of energy.

Some say that work-life balance, properly managed, makes life as easy and smooth as riding a see-saw. HR training reinforces this concept of work-life balance; they encourage associates to avoid working over-time or may even have a no tolerance policy on over-time.

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Sometimes, discussions about work-life balance at work are a bit ironic. Management encourages everyone to work towards this mysterious state of zen, yet we have to accomplish this balance between the hours of eight and five Monday through Friday. After establishing a standard work-day, your day is anything but standard.

At home, our lives are intricately intertwined with our significant others, our children and even friends and neighbors. Throughout the year you will likely have periods of rest and relaxation layered with a variety of other commitments from ball games to bar-b-ques.

With all this variation at home and at work, how is anything like balance even conceivable? Finding the equilibrium between work and life is also very subjective. What is too much work in your world may not be enough for mine (like my son says, it may not be probable but it is possible:-)) Even if we can find our own personal balance, our utopia, outside forces are likely to throw us off kilter at times. Even a carefully constructed, meticulously planned and organized balance between your work and your life cannot compete against an irate customer, an auto accident or an audit notice.

Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler may have found the answer to the perpetual challenge of work-life balance in what they call the ROWE, a Results Oriented Work Environment. It began as an experiment while employed at Bust Buy. The headquarters staff enjoys an amazing amount of freedom in choosing both when and where they work. Nobody questions if you are at the office by eight o’clock or ten o’clock, what they do question is the results of your work. Have you obtained the appointments, booked the conference room or finished the marketing plan?

Fully implemented a ROWE work place has unlimited vacation time and no required meetings. Each person establishes their own schedule and then judged strictly on performance of the job not number of hours. ROWE allows you to work from home or even from the park, permitted you can meet the expectations of your role.

Can you imagine working in a ROWE? You would no longer have to waste time and energy convincing the boss to give you time off for your kid’s soccer game. As long as your work is completed on-time and on-budget, you could attend every sporting event, school production and attend every music lesson with your kids. Meeting your better half for lunch could be routine and you would feel comfortable running an personal errand while on the other side of town meeting a customer.

Instead of lumping all your work into 8 hours, you could dovetail a few hours of critical work and communication into your day while leaving quiet evening hours to take care of paperwork or administrative tasks.

With total flexibility in the day, few people would object to giving ROWE a try. But, what about the company, does it benefit as well? In an article on, implementing ROWE leads to an average 35% increased work productivity. They also highlighted one group in particular.

Best Buy’s strategic sourcing and procurement team boosted employee retention by 27 percent and shed 10 low-performing employees. But the real proof was the huge uptick in performance: The department, which buys materials for the corporate environment, saw a 50 percent increase in cost reductions over two years.

How would things at work be different with ROWE? Working with your company, but in control of your time, you just might be able to experience maximum performance with the least amount of energy. For more information about ROWE take a look at Jody and Cali’s website

Readers: What do you think; would you like to work in a ROWE workplace? Would you be able to save much time and/or money if you had complete control over your schedule? Could you do your job from home?

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16 comments to Work Life Balance, A New Definition

  • Thanks for the mention!

    I would suspect that a number of companies would not be overly receptive to the ROWE program, despite the fact that it could bring a positive culture to an organization.

    I think you’re right in how the equilibrium is sometimes difficult to determine. I remember hearing the expression “there is a fine line between pain and pleasure” and it stuck with me ever since. I think that when we look at the hierarchy of needs, sometimes certain needs can only be met though hard work and determination. This takes effort and can be considered to be ‘painful’ but the fruits of success lead to pleasure.

    I think you nailed it on the head in that the balance you refer to is subjective because people have varying goals and objectives in the first place. As a result, what one may perceive as a healthy personal-work life balance could be viewed as being unhealthy from another.

    Just my thoughts.

    Nice thread.
    .-= The Rat´s last blog ..Shopping For Your Groceries =-.

  • What a great article.

    My boss is very flexible and although his bosses would never allow this type of system to be implemented, we already function somewhat like a ROWE office, informally.

    We have a set amount of vacation time, but we can take as much time as we need, when we need, as long as the work gets done. We are also allowed to work from home if necessary, as long as everything gets taken care of.

    Who made up this 9-5 business anyway?

    Great work here.
    .-= Jesse´s last blog ..The Worlds Worst Credit Card Spenders =-.

  • This is something I have always struggled with. I have the same theory that getting the job done is more important than putting the hours in. This is a tough sell in the corporate world, especially with traditional management styles. Maybe a core number of ours (10am-2pm) followed by any hours you need to get the job done may be a balance between personal balance and business needs? Interesting article. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I may have to include your article in future debates about flexible schedules.
    .-= BibleDebt´s last blog ..Blog Buzz – Over 200,000 =-.

  • This is an awesome progressive article. Sure, not all companies may be able to implement all aspects of ROWE, but what a better way to accomplish goals and objectives. It would be interesting to see how far this concept goes in the corporate world. Maybe instead of hearing the term “9-5,” we’ll start hearing about ROWE. 🙂

  • The LeanLifeCoach

    @The Rat – It is very subjective yet most organizations that promote the concept of work/life try to make all fit within the same mold.

    @Jesse – You raise a whole new issue. What about those groups/companies that have “informal” ROWE enacted? On the one hand you have a great place to work. On the other had, someone is taking risks. If you get a new boss or HR learns of the lax way your boss manages, not only would you lose a great benefit but it would totally destroy morale!

    @Bible Debt – It may be a tough sell but if Best Buy and the Gap can embrace it, it is possible. what really drives the traditional behavior? Do you think it is just he status quo or is it really about companies striving to meet federal regulations?

    @Kristine – I hope you are right! While I am not sure ROWE is the answer to all challenges, I do believe we are long past due for an upgrade to “management” as a profession.

  • I’d love to be involved in a ROWE.

    I do think I could perform most of my job function from home, but I also think it’s important to interact and be present with your coworkers at times. It’s easier to walk over to a coworker’s cube to ask a semi-complex question than to call them and have them describe the answer. Perhaps the key is to find the balance between working from home and coming to the office.

    Overall, though, a ROWE would make for happier employees in my opinion.
    .-= Darren´s last blog ..Work Less, Live More By Bob Clyatt | Book Review =-.

  • The LeanLifeCoach

    @Darren – in a ROWE environment you would not always work from home. When required you would still go to the office, attend meetings in person when necessary or on-line when possible. The focus is on results.

  • What a sweet post.
    I’ve been fighting the urge to work harder. I’m really competitive, and if I ever see ranking lists or anything like that I just work harder. But, as you mentioned in the post, it’s hard to manage healthy relationships and physical fitness when you’re sitting at a desk or sitting with clients.

    Thanks for the reminder that I need to take time with family and friends. I’m going to turn the computer off right now and go spend, no invest some time with my wife.

    Thanks again,
    .-= Guy G.´s last blog ..Grocery Saving Tips – Tips on Budgeting =-.

  • The LeanLifeCoach

    @Guy – Very nice comment, thank you. I hope you had a great time with the family! I just came in from playing soccer with the kids myself.

  • ermine

    Hmm, didn’t this used to be called piece-work? For sure, if everybody plays for a win-win result it would work. But three decades of working tells me that it’ll be a race to the bottom. At least you can measure if they demand you work weekends, whereas if your boss sets ridiculous targets what recourse do you have to challenge it?
    .-= ermine´s last blog ..whither manufacturing, and whatever happened to leadership? =-.

  • RiyaButler

    I am an American. I would like to Put together an Animation Studio in India. At the moment i’m researching for computer animators. I selected India due to the fact it is more inexpensive compared with U.S. I wish to learn the processes for starting off a organization in India, especially an animation studio.

    Can you people please help me out?

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