Beringer Tame Blog

Flexible Working by Way of Autonomy

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According to the Harvard Business Review employees now want "Flexibility by Way of Autonomy".

Read the full article from the HBR

Flexibility is now rivaled in prominence only by the novel work model it is so often used to describe: hybrid work. Together, these words have taken over the way we speak about the future of work and constitute a whole series of new ways to think about the further integration of work and life.

(Harvard Business Review)

What does flexibility really mean in the workplace?

(Flex-work, flexible working, hybrid...)

  • Work & connect from anywhere
  • Ability to work from a mix of home and office
  • Work your hours when and how you like

Essentially it is the desire to choose when, where & how you work.

"For leaders to facilitate flexibility and succeed in hybrid work, enabling employee autonomy will be paramount."

(Harvard Business Review)

Is the future of work based on flexibility by way of autonomy?

The HBR's new hybrid working study study asked over 5,000 global employees what they wanted from the future of their work arrangement; 

  • 59% of respondents reported that “flexibility” is more important to them than salary or benefits.
  • 77% said they would prefer to work for a company that gives them the flexibility to work from anywhere.
  • 61% of employees reported that they would prefer if management allowed team members to choose when to come into the office or work from home.
  • 59% of workers say they would not work for a company that required them to come into a physical office five days per week.

"...our data also shows that the flexibility they want is conditional upon their ability to exercise it in a way that best fits them. In other words, it’s conditional upon autonomy."

(Harvard Business Review)

Why Give Employees Autonomy?

"One’s autonomous motivation for personal, psychological growth — is the foundational catalyst of human success and fulfillment."

Check out self-determination theory from Richard Ryan and Edward Deci;

  • Self-determination is made up of autonomy, competence & relatedness.
  • Autonomy is defined as “the desire to be the causal agent of one’s own life.”
  • Employees perceive the ability to work flexibly as more important than salary and other benefits.
  • “Controlled” motivators such as compensation & benefits "do not get at the core psychological element that motivates humans to become engaged and do a good job."

"If we think of entrusting employees with greater autonomy as the encouragement of self-determination, we can expect a greater degree of satisfaction, fulfillment and engagement at work because the outcomes are likely to be perceived as the result of their own inherent ability. Similarly, it will serve as an intrinsic motivator to perform better."

"In short, autonomy is an indispensable component of motivation and a key driver of performance and well-being."

(Harvard Business Review)

The Relationship Between Autonomy and Flexibility

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to hybrid working & organisations must create a model that works for them.

The most common form of hybrid working?

Working from home and the office with a mandated number of days per week in the office as per many large global organizations such as AdobeCitigroup, and Google.

HBR suggests that the 'easiest way to distinguish hybrid models from one another is not necessarily by where an employee is working or when, but by the amount of autonomy they are given to decide this on their own' and has created a hierarchy which 'examines the most common work arrangements in the world today against the degree of autonomy and flexibility they facilitate'.

Low autonomy, low flexibility: I am mandated to be in the office full time.

Low autonomy, medium flexibility: I work from both the home and the office, but my organization tells me which days to be in which place (e.g. the marketing department is required in the office on Monday and Wednesday, but must work remotely Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday).

Medium autonomy, medium flexibility: I can work from multiple locations, but with a minimum number of days required in office each week.

Medium autonomy, high flexibility: I am mandated to work remotely full time but can choose where I want to work.

High autonomy, high flexibility: I can work wherever, whenever, with full access to my organization’s office space.

Three Steps to Enabling Autonomy in Hybrid Work

1. Establish principles, not policies

2. Invest in competence and relatedness

3. Give employees the tools they need to work autonomously from anywhere

Read the full article from the HBR


Photo by Photography Account on Unsplash

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