7 Tips to Boost Employee Autonomy in Workplace Operations

Macgill Davis

Increasing employee autonomy at work can seem like a daunting task for employers. Is it possible to give your team freedom while still making sure they're productive? What should you do to make sure that employees are empowered to do good work while avoiding micromanagement?

Many employers grapple with these questions, but encouraging employee autonomy in workplace policies doesn't have to be scary. In fact, there are many benefits of giving employees more freedom at work. When employees feel they have a say in their work environment, they're more likely to be engaged, productive, and loyal.

If you're considering giving your employees more autonomy in workplace operations, there are a few things to know. In this article, we'll discuss the benefits of employee autonomy and provide a few tips and tools for employers who wish to give their team members more freedom without compromising productivity.

Defining Autonomy at Work

Employee autonomy at work is the freedom to make decisions and take actions without direct supervision. Empowering employees with autonomy in workplace processes allows them to use their own judgment and discretion on work-related tasks.

The scope of employee autonomy may vary depending on the work environment, position, and experience level. But in general, examples of autonomy include tasks such as setting work schedules, delegating tasks, deciding how to complete tasks, and choosing when and where to work.

Giving employees autonomy doesn't mean giving up all control of the work. It simply means trusting your employees to use their skills and judgment to complete tasks without constant supervision. When implemented correctly, autonomy can have a positive impact on both employers and employees.

The Difference Between Employee Autonomy at Work and Personal Autonomy

Entrepreneur using a laptop

To understand the benefits of increased autonomy, we must distinguish between employee autonomy at work and personal autonomy.

Personal autonomy is the freedom to make decisions about your own life without interference from others. For example, choosing what to wear, what to eat, or how to spend our free time are fundamental personal autonomy rights that we all have.

On the other hand, employee autonomy at work is the freedom to make decisions about your work without micromanagement from your employer. This might include deciding how to complete tasks, setting your own work schedule, or choosing which projects you want to work on.

Personal autonomy rights are inherent to every human being. In contrast, employee autonomy in workplace operations is a privilege that must be earned. Distinguishing between these two types of autonomy is essential because they come with different rights and responsibilities.

The employer has the right to set workplace policies and expectations, and employees must adhere to these if they want to keep their job. However, employers are also responsible for providing employees with the workplace autonomy they need to do their job well.

Workplace rules and expectations that are too restrictive can lead to employee burnout, low morale, and high turnover rates. On the other hand, when employees have too much freedom without guidance, it can lead to chaos and productivity loss. Maintaining a balance is the key.

Benefits of Employee Autonomy in the Workplace

Allowing higher levels of autonomy in workplace activities can have many positive effects on employees and employers. This work arrangement is favored by many because it provides a sense of freedom and independence that isn't found in other types of work environments.

Some of the benefits of employee autonomy at work include:

  • Higher employee engagement: Employees who can manage their own schedules are more likely to be engaged at work. Several studies have found that the option to work flexibly, including flexible hours and locations, is positively associated with increased employee engagement.
  • Increased job satisfaction: Employees with more control over their work are more likely to enjoy it. According to research on workplace culture, employees with a higher degree of autonomy report higher job satisfaction and a greater sense of well-being.
  • Increased loyalty and reduced turnover: Employee loyalty is directly related to autonomy in workplace operations, according to research. Studies show that increased employee autonomy leads to improved work performance and mental health, which then causes greater employee loyalty.
  • Improved work-life balance: Employees' autonomy over their work schedules has an incredible impact on their lives. Jabra's Hybrid Ways of Working 2022 Global Report revealed that employees who have complete freedom to choose when and where they work are happier with their jobs. They also experience a greater work-life balance.
  • Enhanced creativity and job performance: Autonomy is a significant component of empowerment leadership (EL). A meta-analysis of research on employee work behavior found that EL has a significantly positive correlation with task performance and creativity.

Employee autonomy is a type of work arrangement that can have many benefits for both employees and employers. Think about these benefits if you're considering more autonomy for your employees.

7 Tips and Tools to Encourage Employee Autonomy at Work

Autonomy in workplace: entrepreneur sitting and writing at her office

If you want to create a culture of employee autonomy in your workplace, there are many things you can do to encourage it. A few tips and tools are listed below to help you get started.

1. Promote Employee Initiative

One way to promote employee autonomy in workplace operations is to encourage employees to take the initiative. This means giving them the freedom to come up with their own ideas and solutions to problems. Freedom to make decisions is a key component of autonomy, so make sure your employees know they have decision-making power — and that you trust them.

2. Make Sure Employees Have the Right Resources

If you want your employees to be autonomous, you need to provide them with the resources they need to do their best work. This includes access to training and development opportunities, as well as the right tools and technology. 

Apps for project management and team communication are helpful for employees who need to be able to work independently. Time tracking with Rize can help your employees find their most productive times and set their schedules accordingly.

3. Empower Employees to Manage Their Own Time

Another way to encourage employee autonomy is to empower employees to manage their own time. For example, they may be able to set their own hours, work from home, or take breaks when needed. This arrangement requires trust and respect from both sides, but it can be a great way to promote employee autonomy.

4. Encourage Employees to Pursue Their Goals

A great way to encourage employee autonomy is by empowering employees to set goals for themselves. This means giving them the freedom to choose projects they're passionate about and giving them the resources they need to succeed. Employees who feel empowered to pursue their goals are more likely to be engaged and productive.

5. Provide Training and Development Opportunities

Autonomy in workplace: entrepreneur using a computer

Offer opportunities for employees to learn new skill sets, grow in their roles, and develop their careers. A training and development program is essential to encouraging employee autonomy in workplace practices. The more engaged and loyal employees feel, the more likely they will remain with a company.

6. Encourage Feedback and Open Communication

Make sure you encourage feedback and open communication in your workplace. Feedback forms, which can be online and/or anonymous, are one way of opening the lines of communication in a safe and welcoming manner. This will help employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns with you. Also, it can help you identify areas where employees need more support.

7. Trust Your Employees

This is the most important tip — if you want to promote employee autonomy, you must trust your employees. This means delegating tasks and letting them handle them as they see fit. Relinquishing control can be challenging, but setting boundaries and trusting your team is crucial for job autonomy. Employees who feel trusted and supported in their work environment are more likely to be engaged and productive.

Create a Culture of Employee Autonomy at Work With Rize

Employee autonomy in workplace operations can be highly beneficial for both employees and employers. If you want to create a culture of employee autonomy in your workplace, try these seven tips. Most importantly, remember to support, empower, and trust your team members.

To support your employees' autonomy, give Rize a try. Rize is a powerful productivity tool that can help you manage your work schedule and stay focused. Rize automatically tracks your workday, categorizing how you spend your time to identify where you're most focused and doing your best work. With this knowledge, your team can feel empowered to create their own schedules, focus on autonomous work, and complete tasks with a positive impact. 

Get started with a free two-week trial of Rize.