The ideal office job has suffered a litany of changes through the past few decades. Working in an office setting has gone from the dream of the 1950s to a state of being parodied to death in popular media, lamenting the loss of a more innocent worldview as corporate culture struggles to adapt to a safe balance between employee autonomy and corporate authority. Even smaller businesses suffer through the same growing pains and the right balance between the two differs wildly for different businesses.
The Era of Autonomy
Take Google, for instance, boasting high employee retention and approval rates while their offices sport on-site health care and free food for its employees. While surely a worker’s paradise in some respects, fulfilling this level of employee-centric benefit packages rests in the realm of attainability for a select few businesses with massive budgets. Most small workplaces struggle to work disaster recovery insurance and other protections into their budgets, let alone provide optional employee perks.
The real shame is just how effective providing proper autonomy can be. By allowing a higher degree of freedom and instilling the idea that the corporate structure cares for the employee as an individual, satisfaction and loyalty rates rise more quickly than in conditions where employees are given little to no choice in their daily routine.
Given how autonomy can produce happy and productive employees who work of their own volition rather than coming into the workplace and tuning out for eight hours of their day, finding a way to properly strike a balance between freedom and work-oriented goals requires a careful audit of the way one’s business works. Turning employees loose from the get-go is a surefire way to end up with scattered projects, a chaotic project structure and confusion amidst workers.
Workplace Oversight and the Realities of Business
Implementing freedom into a command structure not prepared to handle hands-off management might end up just as unruly as a completely free-form structure. To balance this eventuality, a fine line must be drawn between the authority of the business and under what circumstances employee choice is an acceptable route of action. Sometimes the illusion of choice is as powerful as choice itself, but not every aspect of authority has to be this bleak.
The simple act of bringing employee opinion into the forefront provides a morale boost that cannot be understated. Simply knowing their input is being heard and considered, even when a suggestion isn’t within the realm of feasibility, provides stronger positive feedback than ignoring input entirely.
Finding a true balance between free choice and productivity often requires building a system where the two complement one another. Even though these goals seem diametrically opposed, directly forcing one’s hand and pushing management oversight on every facet of a project requires more time and may be less effective than self-reporting, employee-driven plans.
Stating goals, trusting employees to meet them and requiring them to stand accountable for their decisions allows for less time watching for results and more time working on higher-level problems.
Giving up the reins entirely works in precious few businesses, leaving alternative methods of enforcing accountability as a means of ensuring proper usage of company time and resources. Something as simple as employee internet monitoring software provides peace of mind for management positions without directly informing employees their performance is being evaluated.
The Balancing Bottom Line
Ultimate freedom leads to chaos and micromanagement encourages employee burnout, suspicion, morale drops and early job termination. Instead of finding ways to bring more eyes onto an employee’s work, focusing on finding ways to make them feel as if their progress reflects upon them more strongly than a quarterly performance review could provide tangible benefits well beyond a steady paycheck.
If you want an employee to feel loyal to a business without having their soul crushed in the process, make them feel involved in their job. It can be as simple as folding in their opinions onto ongoing programs or as lofty a goal as setting up milestones to be met and allowing them to work towards them at unorthodox paces and without massive oversight.
In the end, deploying a plan that boosts autonomy without harming the bottom line requires a long look at what makes an individual business work while also ensuring employees remain satisfied.
Author: Philip Piletic’s primary focus is a fusion of technology, small business, and marketing. He is an editor, writer, marketing consultant and guest author at several authority websites. Philip is in love with startups, latest tech trends and helping others get their ideas off the ground.