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How to Give Your Employees More Freedom (And Why It’s Important)

Published March 17, 2017

Employees need freedom

There’s no question that successful companies are backed in part by satisfied employees. This employee satisfaction may be the direct result of autonomy in the workplace: a recent survey found that 53.4 percent of employees who felt they had complete control in their job reported feeling totally satisfied.

Taking this idea a step further, a University of Warwick study found that these happy employees are 12 percent more productive than those who are not happy: “The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality,” says lead researcher Dr. Daniel Sgroi.

Luckily, giving employees more of this autonomy, and empowering them to do their jobs without being micromanaged, is easier than you think. Your organization doesn’t have to turn to complete anarchy, either. Small efforts like introducing employee-led meetings allow you to facilitate this need without going off the rails.

Here are a few simple ideas to try with your staff.

Offer Flexible Work Hours

There’s a reason most top companies in the world have done away with the traditional 9 to 5 work hours; it’s exhausting and it crushes motivation. Employees who have the option of working when and where they want are both less stressed and more productive, according to Why Flex Hours Actually Makes Employees More Productive.

There are a few ways to facilitate this:

• Allow employees to complete their work within a certain time frame during the day; i.e. anytime between 7am and 7pm. Early birds can come in and get out early, while those who like to sleep in can make their way to the office later in the day and stay into the evening.
• Give employees the freedom to work from home whenever they want.
• Give employees the freedom to work from home once a week or one day a month.

Avoid anarchy: Implement a company chat platform if you offer flexible work hours. This allows everyone to stay in touch and get answers quickly, regardless of who’s in the office and who’s not.

Require Weekly Employee-Led Meetings

Most companies hold weekly meetings to discuss projects, brainstorm ideas, and communicate problems and solutions. This is a great time to encourage employee autonomy; require that a different employee run the show each week. If you take a step back and let employees take the reins, you’ll foster a sense of freedom with everyone, while also boosting morale.

“Stop being the Chief Everything Officer for these meetings. Like other aspects of running a [business], you can delegate your weekly office meetings to your staff. It not only makes meetings more productive, but it even puts the ‘fun’ back in these ‘functions,’” says Brian Spittle, CEO of a private practice in Virginia.

Avoid anarchy: Create a template that employees use to structure their meeting. Have them complete the form and send it back to you for review so you can be sure their meeting is focused.

Empower Employees; Don’t Micro-Manage Them

When trying to give your employees more freedom, the answer is not to do away with leadership altogether. Rather, it’s to empower them to take initiative and risks that solve problems and grow the business:

“Most organizations squelch employee initiative and creativity by stifling, discouraging, or even punishing employees for taking risks. However, the truth is that the more supportive and encouraging the environment, the more willing employees will be to take the initiative that organizations need them to in order to enable those companies to compete and excel,” says Bob Nelson, of Retention Connection.

Avoid anarchy: Hold weekly meetings with employees who are working on top-level projects that are more sensitive to risk-taking. This way you can be in the know, and they still have the freedom to do the work they were hired to do.

Don’t Define Success and Failure

This may sound strange, but pushing your definition of these two things on your employees immediately removes the element of freedom; suddenly their work is defined by your judgment of what success and failure looks like. Haril Pandya, Principal of CBT Architects, explains his experience:

“The moment you try to push your opinion on others about what defines success and failure, you take a step back in the process of developing authentic relationships. You can’t expect people will subscribe to everything you say. We’re all wired differently in the way we absorb, retain, and react to information.”

Instead, focus on making these definitions fluid within your organization. Allow employees the freedom to define success for themselves, empowering them to do what they’re best at, without being stuck by the confines of your opinions.

Avoid anarchy: While there is no one definition of success and failure, most projects are either successful or not. Have team leads work with each individual employee to determine what they see as success so that everyone is set up to do their best work and their superiors see that.



BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a professional blogger and freelance writer. She spent the two years working tirelessly for a small startup, where she learned a lot about running business and being resourceful. She’s now her own business owner and has been featured on Forbes. She’s also written for StartupNation, Manta, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 for more small business tips and ideas.

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