Remote Work: Does it serve or erode autonomy?


In 2017, researchers from the University of Birmingham studied 2 years’ worth of data on 20,000 workers to determine the effects of autonomy on employee morale and well being. Generally, the higher levels of autonomy a worker experienced, the higher their sense of job satisfaction and well being. Now granted, this was 3 years before the WFH mandate around Covid-19, but remote and isolated work doesn’t necessarily mean autonomous. In fact, it’s hardly autonomous at all, what with incessant zoom meetings and checkpoints eroding any work/life balance even remotely (pardon the pun, I just couldn’t help myself) possible.


Given this, here are a few strategies to support businesses and managers wanting to incorporate more autonomy into a work environment with a static infrastructure.


Decision Making. Autonomous workers are able to make decisions for themselves, without the need to run every decision “by management” or submit it to a team or committee. Workers will feel more in control of their own destiny and hence accountability to their job, especially over their own responsibilities, and less subject to the direction of others.

Idea Contribution and Collaboration. When employees feel like their ideas and contributions matter, they’re willing to contribute more frequently, and with more commitment. Google famously took advantage of this by sponsoring employee passion projects, and many have followed in its footsteps.

Minimal supervision. Oversight is good, and necessary in some applications, but micromanagement makes employees feel small and distrusted. Autonomy trusts workers will accomplish their goals without much intervention.

Taking Responsibility. Autonomy gives employees a degree of determining their own responsibilities. For example, they may be able to delegate some of their responsibilities, or choose their own schedules. They may have a better way to do something - eliminating the idea of “it’s always been done this way, so do it this way” limitations.


Earlier this year I took a project on the side. It's been that kind of year and management promised I'd be autonomous and able to fit it in whilst still working on my other business (this one). I bit. It sounded interesting and I'm a sponge to learn new industries. BUT. Enter the small print: In short order, I had to attend 20 hours of in-house meetings per month with various management leaders, and my remuneration required another 15 hours a week, 60 hours a month of external meetings. In short order, I realized this side project was a bit of a Ponzi scheme of time. An organization that promised culture, balance but most important to me - autonomy, in fact, delivered just the opposite - and I was an independent contractor!


If we work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (wishful thinking...lol) 50 weeks a year for 45 years (from age 20-65 if we are lucky) we will have labored 90,000 hours! With an average 8 hour hours of sleep a day, this number represents 30-40% of the waking hours of our youth through middle age. Seems to me we need to find meaning and happiness in what we are doing, stat.


At IAAW we utilize transformative techniques that might be considered Spiritual in nature but are really quite universal. If we heal the wounds of "Living to work" and create instead a self realized, fulfilled and vital life within which we work, the organization/company becomes the sacred container for the evolution of its participants as well as delivering unparalleled ROI. Call or email us to set up a confidential consultation. Being trusted to do what workers were brought in to do is important. Autonomy to support that is crucial so our employees can OWN their OWN success. Happiness isn’t overrated. It’s integral to expansion in all ways that support commerce and humanity!

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