Good leadership has all kinds of practices and attributes, but giving employees greater autonomy is definitely one of the key elements. New studies show that autonomy has significant effects on several aspects, from performance and culture to loyalty and well-being.
However, being independent does not mean being completely free or renouncing all responsibility. Rather, the opposite is true: autonomy must be accompanied by significant productivity limits and restrictions in order to be most effective.
So giving employees more freedom and control over their work is a great idea, and new studies prove it. These studies show that autonomy should be a priority for leaders.
According to a study by Gartner, when employees have the flexibility to set their own hours, they are 2.3 times more likely to achieve excellent performance than those with less autonomy.
When giving more freedom, 83% of employees had a positive view of their company’s culture, compared to 47% of those with less control, according to research from Atlassian.
According to data from a Gartner study, employees who have more freedom are 2.3 times more likely to stay with their company.
Increased work flexibility also has a positive impact on innovation, according to data from the Atlassian study. Specifically, 71% of employees say they are more innovative, compared to 57% who have less freedom.
When employees have more autonomy in their work, they are 1.9 times less likely to experience burnout, according to data from a Gartner study. On the other hand, when workers in high-stress jobs have less control over their workflow, their health and longevity are negatively affected. In contrast, workers with more autonomy in decision-making do not experience the same negative health effects, according to two separate studies conducted in Indiana University.
According to a study conducted by University of IllinoisEmployees who have more control over work-life boundaries and are able to manage the impact of their smart devices tend to be less stressed, less anxious, and sleep better.
Furthermore, with more independence, only 14% of employees reported feeling overwhelmed, compared to 36% for those with less freedom, according to the Atlassian study.
Borders and driving
To achieve good results, you need autonomy, but this does not mean that you have to give it without restrictions.
While we all receive a lot of information constantly, clarity can help reduce the saturation effect. Neurologically, people tend to avoid ambiguity and prefer certainty, so clarity of goals and expectations can be especially empowering.
Too much autonomy can leave employees adrift, not knowing what to do when and why it matters to the business. Instead, wise leaders give guidance and direction to employees and connect their work to a greater purpose. They explain how their work affects the work of other employees inside and outside the company. Finally, they set expectations for the quality of work and the results employees are expected to achieve. This clarity helps reduce ambiguity and stress.
Good leaders are also empathetic, and when they show empathy, it positively impacts employees and the business, including performance, engagement, innovation, and well-being.
Empathy is also linked to autonomy, as employees value different kinds of freedom. Some employees may succeed in having more control over their work hours, so that they can leave early to attend a child’s game or care for an elderly family member, and then return to work later to complete their assignment. For others, freedom in the type of work they do is most important: the freedom to focus on development or take initiatives outside of their usual responsibilities. For others, influencing the team members they invite to participate in their project may be the biggest benefit.
Adopt an empathetic approach by focusing on everyone’s needs and asking your employees what they value: This will give them the kind of autonomy that suits their priorities and role. Of course, every job has its limitations, but when you can balance the needs of the job with the unique desires of the employee it has a positive impact, whether it be giving your employees greater choices in when, where, how and with whom they work.
- Independence and responsibility
It is a myth of the belief that autonomy does not come with responsibility. If you want to provide more freedom, it is also necessary to hold employees accountable for results. It’s also a myth that employees don’t want to be held accountable. In fact, responsibility is associated with value and recognition.
When leaders hold their employees accountable, they make them understand that they value their work, participation, and contribution. When employees’ work is up to par, it’s an opportunity to show them appreciation. And when they don’t, leaders’ feedback shows they care about employee improvement and development.
Great leaders pay attention to employees’ work, give them feedback, and reward them when they excel.
The future of work will definitely be flexible and will provide more freedom to the employees. However, for an optimal work experience, autonomy must have limits. As the world of work evolves, more needs to be learned about how employees can stay engaged and connected, and balance flexibility with results.
Translated article from Forbes US – Author: Tracy Brower
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