The Ultimate Telecommute

November 11, 2016

Charles Olentine

Charlie Olentine, CEO of Consult NC Inc, has over 25 years experience in B2B publishing and from 2004 to 2016 managed the Top 50 show - International Production & Processing Expo. colentine@consult-nc.com

"To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." Winston Churchill

For several years, I have had the opportunity to serve on the Board of Advisors for WATT Global Media, a family-owned publisher/media company for which I worked from 1978 to 2004.

As with any company that had its roots in in print B2B publishing, it has had to expand its vision to include the digital realm and trade shows and events. For a person who has been Old School, hanging on the preferring the printed word, the experience has been enlightening and informative.

One of the major changes the company has embraced seems like heresy for managers using the employee management models of the last century.

A little over 4 years ago, the president informed us that the company was going to the Results Only Work Environment or ROWE. The concept is simple and straight forward. Abby Perkins (http://business.com/management/do-results-only-workplaces-really-work) explains the process:

“An organization’s main goal is to succeed. Their most valuable tool in working toward that goal? Highly skilled, highly motivated employees. And those employees are most driven when they work in a relaxed, comfortable environment and feel appreciated for their expertise and accomplishments…In an ideal ROWE workplace there are no set hours and no required meetings. Employees aren’t even required to come into the office – at all. They have total autonomy over where they work, and when they work. The only measure is the results they deliver.”

When WATT went to this management style, the Board of Advisors (mostly Baby Boomers) were skeptical. However, 4 years later the system is working well. Since the publishing/digital/event industries are highly computerized, the need to come into a central location has been diminished. The company still maintains a corporate office but the footprint is being decreased dramatically. The program has worked so successfully that the company is phasing out its vacation/PTO program, therein eliminating the need to accrue vacation days from an accounting point of view. Additionally, it has been a key recruiting tool.

As I look back on the old days, my commute was at least 1 hour each way to work in nasty, congested and stressful Atlanta traffic.

Totally unproductive. Everything that I worked on could be done via computer and teleconferencing. I still believe in the power of colleagues being able to stop by in an office environment and brainstorm. However, the new generations are used to more impersonal modes of communication and I can see how the ROWE process is a major selling factor for recruiting top talent.

There are challenges with ROWE, especially for managers. Employees have to be given clear objectives wherein results can be readily assessed. Not every employee has the discipline and drive to work in such an environment and when a manager suspects problems, he or she needs to address them quickly and be willing to pull the trigger on non-productive employees.

Getting schedules coordinated can be a challenge but with programs such as GoToMeeting and calendar synchronization, the problems can be more easily handled. For employees, having total flexibility can mean feeling like being on the clock 24/7.

ROWE is not for every company. However, the trade show management sector is highly integrated technologically which opens the door for telecommuting, especially for small to medium sized companies. ROWE involves a lot of trust from both management and employees as well as continual reinforcement, education and training on how to maximize the program.

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