Freedom at work, otherwise known as autonomy, has been well-cemented as a positive aspect of working life. We have talked about the importance of freedom at work before. As long as you know your job well enough to feel confident in your skills, freedom at work is generally a positive thing. But, there may be positive impacts that you’re not aware of.
We hope that all employees can gain more independence in the workplace. This requires managers to relinquish some control to employees. If you’re having a hard time getting your organization to see the benefits of freedom at work, we hope this article will help you. Many managers try to “micro-manage” or overwork employees. Getting out of their way and letting them do the job they were hired to do is key. Learn more about the positive impacts of freedom at work below!
Do You Have Freedom at Work?
Before you ask your manager for more freedom, it’s good to know how much you already have. Generally, there are three facets of freedom at work. First, you can have freedom to decide how work gets done. Ask yourself the following questions. Do you have the ability to decide how to get your tasks done? In other words, can you decide what methods and procedures you’re going to use to complete tasks? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you have high work method freedom. When this form of freedom is low, you have to follow practices and procedures “by the book” with very little room for personalization.
Second, you can have freedom over your schedule. Can you decide when you start working and when you stop? Are you able to decide which work activities you tackle first or last each day? Can you decide when you focus on certain projects instead of others? If you answered “yes”, then you have high work scheduling freedom. Those with low work scheduling freedom have to follow a “to-do” list and stop and start at a set time each day.
Finally, you can have freedom over how you’re evaluated. This means that you work with your supervisor to determine key objectives for your career and job. Are you able to let your supervisor know if a key part of your job is missing in your evaluation criteria? Can you set some of your own key performance objectives, so they align with your career goals? If so, you are high on freedom of criteria. If not, you are likely held to standards that you had no say in, or that you disagree with.
What Are the Outcomes of Freedom at Work?
As mentioned above, freedom is generally a good thing at work. You don’t want to throw new employees into their job without proper preparation. But, once employees are well-trained, they generally want to be left alone to do their work. While freedom at work isn’t the only thing that drives well-being, it has consistently been linked to positive outcomes on the job.
For example, if your company is trying to decrease work and family conflicts for employees, freedom helps. Being able to flex your time and work around improves work engagement, which then enriches your family and work life. A meta-analysis showed that it also helps increase job attitudes, like satisfaction, commitment, and turnover intentions. The same study showed employees are also more motivated and perform better when they have more freedom. Emotional exhaustion, stress, and health issues were also decreased.
Interestingly, the link between autonomy and well-being holds across cultures. Across 63 countries, having more freedom was a better indicator of well-being than having more money. So, no matter where you work, having greater freedom on the job is helpful!
How Do You Get More Job Autonomy?
Especially in a remote working environment, it is becoming harder for managers to micro-manage employees. But, some managers may see this as a threat, rather than an opportunity. If your manager is trying to control how and when you do your work, sharing the above information might be helpful. But, if that doesn’t work, you might be able to set some boundaries with your manager.
If your manager is jumping in every time they sense there might be a problem, assure them you will ask for help when you need it. Letting them know that you’re ready and willing to flag up issues might lessen their need to monitor you. You can also let your manager know that you appreciate their help when you do reach out. If managers feel entirely unwanted or unneeded, they might try to assert their value in other ways. Finally, you might schedule some time to talk with your manager about the way you work best. You should also ask about how they work best, so they are included in planning for success. If you can discuss and plan together, you will have higher buy-in. Here’s to hoping for more freedom at work in the future!