Handing out Autonomy at the Workplace: Smart or Stupid?
Being in control is a motivation in itself.
Work can sometimes be too rigid and robotic. As a leader, that should worry you. Bureaucracy is a killer of productivity when it comes to the average Joe. Forcing an individual to work by the book ends up with a result no greater than the book being worked. While some level of organization is necessary, too much of it will result in creativity being killed off, disillusioned workers and subpar work.
There are 4 angles in which a leader can hand out autonomy in a workplace. As always, this guide is situational and heavily dependent on the kind of job involved.
Autonomy at the Workplace
1) When to do it
Letting a worker decide their schedule and set their own deadlines to tally with their abilities is one way of increasing productivity. To look at it in perspective, if someone works when they rather not, is anything actually being done? Concepts such as flextime work well in ensuring a level of autonomy in the workplace. Employees are made to work for a short set period in the day, usually late morning. Besides that short period of time in the day, they are given the chance to pick and choose their schedule, as long as they clock in a fixed amount of hours.
2) How to do it
Constraining a worker to one technique of completing work is counter-productive. Technique can be subjective: some workers perform better with different methods. In some cases, exploring a technique can lead to a worker refining it. A good way of providing autonomy is to set a base method of how to perform. A few guidelines and expectations are set. Beyond that, a worker is free to mold and carve out a new technique if it is deemed fit.
3) Who to do it with
Teamwork is an amazing tool. Sometimes. Incompatible teammates will end up diverting focus from actually completing work to dealing with the ‘team’. As a leader, it is hard to know the proper combinations, given that you aren’t actually involved directly. Thus, autonomy in picking who a worker can work with is important in ensuring compatibility and satisfaction. One technique that can be used is to delegate a project and allow that worker to choose a set number of people to work with, provided they agree too.
4) What to do
This is autonomy at its finest. Some companies are already seeing the importance of this form of autonomy when it comes to innovation and creativity. Employees are allowed to pick whatever form of work they feel like doing. They have sole autonomy of what is done, provided that something is done at the very least. Companies such as Google have used this approach to spur new ideas. One technique that can be used it to allow workers to aside a few hours a day, or perhaps a day altogether, to work on their own personal projects. After which, they are expected to present their work to everyone else.