The US is gearing up for another 4th of July celebration. So, the concept of freedom might be top of mind. But, how does freedom apply to your work life? Indeed, work freedom is linked to wellbeing. But, is more freedom always a good thing? When might you want guidance instead of autonomy? Read below to learn more about how whether or not you have freedom at work might be impacting your wellness.
Freedom Has Generally Positive Effects on Employees
Classic research on the impact of autonomy (what academics call “freedom”) shows that it generally improves job attitudes and mental health outcomes. Additionally, having more freedom at work can help to make the positive effect of other work attitudes stronger. For example, if your organization supports you AND you have freedom, your commitment is higher than if you just had support. Further, these effects hold true across the life span – with older workers valuing freedom even more than younger workers do.
So, micro-managing others makes them suffer negative consequences. Being unable to make decisions about how and when to complete your work is likely to feel constraining. This decreases your wellbeing as a result. If you’re a manager, this means that you should get out of your employees’ way. For employees, seek out job opportunities or projects which allow you to have the freedom to make your own choices about your work. Have a manager who tends to micro-manage? Try asking for more responsibility or freedom. Sometimes you need to tell managers that you want more freedom or they will not realize it.
More Complex Jobs Require More Freedom
The more complicated your job is, the more employees find it important to have the freedom to do it “their way”. While autonomy is always a good thing on the job, it is especially important in jobs that have a lot of complexity. This is because it’s stressful to have a job that has a lot of cognitive or physically complex tasks associated with it. In these situations, it is likely that you’ll need to adjust the job in ways that make it more comfortable and easier for you to complete. You should be able to make these changes or you will get frustrated.
This is important because if your job has a lot of demands, but you don’t have a lot of resources to leverage to lessen those demands, you’re likely to burn out. Overall, if you’re completing a more simple, straightforward task, tailoring a process is less important. Uniformity helps in these situations. But, if the job is more complex, you need to be able to draw on resources, like freedom to do the job the way you want, in order to make sure you stay motivated and well. Finally, if you’re overqualified for your current job, having more autonomy can help alleviate some of your negative feelings about being in a job that isn’t aligned with your skills.
Work-Life Concerns Decrease with Autonomy
Freedom is not just important for your feelings about your job – it might also have an impact on your life. For example, being allowed to work from home as needed has been shown to have a positive impact on wellbeing. We have talked about the importance of flexible work schedules before. Some studies show that having face-to-face interactions can be helpful at times. But, having control over when you come into the office helps improve your satisfaction with work and life. Overall, when employees sense control on the job, they are happier with their life outside of work as well.
In fact, having more autonomy at work can help you develop better feelings about yourself overall. For example, you might feel more in control of your own outcomes, making you more likely to try to solve problems for yourself. This can have a positive impact on your work and life because it impacts how you approach challenges overall. In general, if you are feeling out of balance, asking for more flexibility and freedom might help. If you’re a manager, and you want your employees to have productive and proactive work-lives, think about how you might allow them to model that proactivity while they are on the clock.
Overall, having freedom at work is important for your wellbeing. It’s even more important if your task is complex and if you are facing challenges in work and in life. How have you increased your feelings of autonomy at work? How have you supported employee freedom at work? We’d love to hear from you below!