Work From Home | Flexibility or Autonomy: What Matters Most?

Last Updated on August 2, 2022 by Josh Mahan

As we created new ways to accomplish work during the pandemic, we saw a shift in prioritizing how one could complete assignments as they would do in the workplace, but within the comfort of home. Enter the work from home (WFH) revolution.

Such a big change brings a lot of questions, and in many cases, hesitation. Studies show that at least 86 percent of organizations have not transitioned into full-time remote work due to concerns over the effects of working remotely.

Fortunately, at least 85 percent of employees reported being more productive when working alone, so it might be worth it to bite the bullet and shift to at least a hybrid model if productivity is high on your priority list.

However, the concern is not just about the flexibility of working from home – it is also about balancing employee autonomy. Having a structure of motivation and accountability for workers to complete their tasks is essential while in a comfortable, familiar environment.

Employers cannot focus on just flexibility without paying attention to autonomy to accomplish a structured work environment.

What Is Flexibility When Working from Home?

Flexibility in the workplace refers to having the ability to adapt when working in different circumstances. An employee can overcome new obstacles that may arise unexpectedly, maintain their schedule, and be on track with work even if they are not at work.

The Benefits of Having Flexibility in Working from Home

The option to work from home grants the opportunity for workers to work in a familiar, comfortable environment and, for some people, may boost motivation and focus without interruptive meetings, distracting coworkers, and “big brother” office surveillance.

Several benefits of working from home include:

WFH Promotes a Structured Work-Life Balance

One of the primary benefits of working remotely is granting workers the ability to work at their own pace, creating their work schedule so long as their tasks and assignments are complete.

We see this illustrated through data collected by Pew Research. Pew found that 64% of work from home workers found it easier to balance personal and work life.

WFH Is Beneficial for the Environment and Mental Health

By promoting a flexible work dynamic, you can reduce commute hours and harmful pollution from cars. Those who commute more than 30 minutes to work report higher levels of anxiety and stress, according to the UK’s Office of National Statistics.

Plus, a private vehicle can emit 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. By staying home, employees can reduce both carbon dioxide and stress.

WFH Boosts Productivity

In some cases, working from home can eliminate unneeded distractions, like pestering coworkers or unnecessary meetings that should have been emails, taking up time in your day.

When a company gives employees the flexibility to complete their work when it’s most convenient for them (as long as deadlines are met), they can accomplish assignments at their own pace motivated by the work itself, not the micro-management of their superiors.

It’s important to note that while this benefit isn’t across the board, since many workers face more distractions at home or have trouble without the structure of a 9-5 office day, it can help others focus on the work without excess office noise and activity.

Comfortable Work Environment

Some employees dislike sitting at a desk all day underneath harsh LED office lighting. When they work from home, the living room, kitchen, or any spot of choice can be the office. By working remotely, any environment can be their workplace.

How to Achieve Flexibility in Working From Home?

There are several ways to boost flexibility when working from home. Some of these solutions include: 

Implementing Telecommuting for Remote Work

Telecommuting is one of the more beneficial options as it connects team members through an online portal where they can connect, communicate, and collaborate using audiovisual software despite their geographic location.

Focus on Work Objectives

Even though employees have the freedom to create their schedule and how they work, they should still be meeting all work objectives and timelines. The more consistently timely they are, the more flexibility they can be granted to work on things when it best suits them.

Parents could take time off to pick up and drop off kids at school. Night owls could start working in the afternoons and later in the evenings. Early birds can get up and be done with work before lunch!

What Is Autonomy When Working From Home?

Autonomy when working from home refers to the amount of freedom an employee has in making decisions and completing objectives. Autonomy can help promote job satisfaction and employee commitment.

What Are the Benefits of Having Autonomy in Working From Home?

In implementing autonomy factors, the workforce feels more relaxed and motivated to accomplish tasks efficiently. Some of those benefits include:

Promotes Employee Retention

Reducing employee stress by granting more autonomy can lead to reduced job turnover since an estimated 40% of turnover is directly due to stress.

Increases Employee Engagement (and Profits)

Employees who have creative liberty in their work may find it easier to engage in tasks they need to complete, and engaged workers add to your profits.

Gallup found that teams who feel engaged, which often comes from being able to think independently (aka autonomy), exhibit 21% more profitability.

Encourages Trust in Employees

Implementing autonomy can build a level of trust between the employee and the employer. Encouraging this level of trust promotes overall employee morale and performance. One US study found people at high-trust companies reported 74% less stress and 50% higher productivity in 2017.

How To Achieve Autonomy in Working From Home?

In comparison to achieving flexibility, some ways you can achieve autonomy are:

Understanding Employees Needs

Thoroughly communicating and listening to what employees need and how you can empower them through resources, training, development, and team member support will equip them to take the reins and work more independently.

Communicate with Employees Regularly

Avoid issues by answering any questions employees have with regular opportunities for communication. However, communication shouldn’t be too frequent, as it would increase reliance on the team and defeat the purpose of autonomy.

Establishing Boundaries for Employees

It’s essential to establish healthy boundaries to promote a safe work environment. One example of a boundary that protects autonomy is not expecting immediate responses.

Since autonomy gives employees the power to choose when and how to approach something, you can’t expect them to be fully available to you at any given time. Establishing a reasonable timeframe for communication, like 24 hours, ensures accountability without threatening autonomy.

Final Thoughts

Implementing autonomy for WFH employees can provide workers freedom without the hassle and stress of micromanagement. Providing flexibility grants employees the opportunity to complete tasks wherever they are, regardless of their circumstances.

Overall, autonomy and flexibility are essential when working from home. One might be more important than another on an individual basis, so it could be worth it to talk to your employees about where their priorities lie.

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