ROWE and Healthy Lifestyles

This article accompanies Anytime, Anywhere.

Sunday, August 1, 2010
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For many Americans, work can get in the way of a healthy lifestyle -- or serve as an excuse to justify behavior detrimental to their well-being.

I don't have time to work out.

I spend too much time at work to eat healthy.

I can't miss work to see the doctor.

But in a Results-Only Work Environment -- where you can create your own schedule and work from whatever location you want as long as results are met -- many of those concerns simply fade away.

That could lead to a healthier workforce and could, possibly, lower healthcare costs for the company.

Chuck Wilsker, president and CEO of The Telework Coalition in Washington, says working from home -- common, but not always the case in a ROWE -- makes it much easier to exercise.

"In my family room right outside my office, I have weights, I have a NordicTrack, I have a sit-up thing and I walk by and I do some exercises," he says.

"When you're home, you have that time to do it."

Many, like Jody Thompson, argue that being able to fully manage your time reduces stress -- one of the main ingredients of an unhealthy lifestyle.

"Give them that freedom and autonomy, and their energy goes way up," says Thompson of CultureRx in St. Paul, Minn. (She developed ROWE at Best Buy with partner Cali Ressler.)

ROWE employees are certainly fighting traffic less than the rest of the workforce, since they can choose to miss rush hour -- a good thing, considering Americans spent 4.2 billion hours in traffic in 2007 (the last year of data available), according to a report by the Texas Transportation Institute, part of Texas A&M University.

"Telecommuting reduces the time spent traveling to and from work, so it eliminates (at least on those days) a significant stressor, a waste of time and a 'vitiator' of productivity," says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health in Washington.

Wilsker, who works from home, poses this question: "Do you know how much stress I had walking down to my office today? Not much."

Darling does say family stressors have the potential to replace other stressors."Those with children in the home will need reliable child care," she says. "Spouses and family members will need to behave toward you just as they would if you were in your office talking with 'the boss.' "

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ROWE workers might even be more protected from cold and flu outbreaks since they are less likely to be gathered in an office for long periods of time with co-workers who are sick.

Since Gap Inc. implemented its ROWE program in 2008, its workforce is getting healthier and healthier, says Eric Severson, Gap's vice president of human resources.

"Employees have found that they got more sleep," says Severson, "had better quality of sleep, were healthier and went to the doctor when they needed to."

See also:

More than Cookies for Girl Scout Workers

ROWE Results

Athlete ROWEs to the Olympics

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