The ideal workplace for the 21st century is a setting that allows significant flexibility in work schedule and even work locations. And according to research by two University of Minnesota sociologists, in such a setting managers focus on results, rather than a time or place — reducing family-work conflicts and cutting turnover.
Drs. Erin Kelly and Phyllis Moen reviewed data from surveys of more than 600 employees and company records employed by retail giant Best-Buy. Records were analyzed before and after the implementation of a so-called “Results Only Work Environment” (ROWE) workplace initiative.
ROWE looks at results rather than a set work schedule and location. Employees could routinely change when and where they worked without seeking permission from a manager or even notifying one.
Moen and Kelly examined whether the initiative affects work-family conflict, whether schedule control plays a role in these effects, and whether work demands (including long hours) moderate the initiative’s effects on work-family outcomes.
“Previous research has not been able to assess whether workplace policies or initiatives succeed in reducing work-family conflict or increasing work-family fit,” Kelly said.
“The study points to the importance of schedule control for understanding job quality and for management policies and practices,” Moen said.
“With these changes in the workplace, employees gained control over the time and timing of their work in ways that benefitted them and, by extension, their families and communities,” Kelly said.
“It is feasible to broaden access to schedule control and thereby relieve work-family conflicts and improve work-family fit for more workers,” Moen said.
The research also demonstrates positive impact of the Results Only Work Environment initiative for the company. The researchers found that ROWE reduced turnover by 45 percent—after controlling for multiple factors like job level, organizational tenure, job satisfaction, income adequacy, job security, and other turnover intentions.
Specifically, only 6 percent of ROWE participants left the company during the eight month study period while 11 percent of the comparison group left. ROWE also reduced turnover intentions among those remaining with the corporation.
“By showing that a policy initiative like ROWE can reduce turnover, this research moves the ‘opting out’ argument—whether one chooses family over work—from a private issue to an issue of how employers can change the workplace to better meet the needs of employees,” Moen said.
Their work is published in the journal American Sociological Review.