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Study Says the Secret to Keeping your Best Employees is to Give Them More Freedom

Job autonomy has been linked to more happiness and job satisfaction

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BY Cristina Morales - 24 May 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

According to recent research from the University of Birmingham Business School, giving your employees more freedom not only leads to higher levels of job satisfaction, but is also good for their overall wellbeing.

In this media release, researcher Dr. Daniel Wheatley said:

“Greater levels of control over work tasks and schedule have the potential to generate significant benefits for the employee, which was found to be evident in the levels of reported wellbeing.

The positive effects associated with informal flexibility and working at home, offer further support to the suggestion that schedule control is highly valued and important to employees ‘enjoying’ work.”

The study found that more flexibility in the workplace was especially significant for female employees, specifically employees with kids, who, with more freedom, would be able to balance their work and family commitments with more ease.

Similarly, an earlier study examining 1,380 employees in Taiwan found that employees with more job autonomy reported greater work satisfaction, and also expressed less intentions to transfer or leave.

Freedom and trust

Giving your employees more autonomy in the workplace shows them that you trust them. Hovering over your employees’ desks to make sure that they’re doing their work is not just a huge waste of time, but is also demoralizing.

“You hired [your team] for a reason, so you should trust them in the work that they do,” says Paolo Rentero, founder of Manila tech start-up Digiteer Creative Studio, in this Inc. Southeast Asia article. “Provide suggestions and if needed, some criticism, but never micromanage. Always remember that in a start-up, you guys operate as a team. Each person serves their own purpose and the whole will not be able to function if you are missing one. Building this mindset within your team will encourage them to work harder and be closer within the company.”

More freedom in the workplace demonstrates to your team that they’re part of a community, not just another cog in the machine.

“Benefits that promote freedom and sharing will give the employees a sense of belonging,” says John Thornton, director of talent at recruitment start-up WorkVenture in this Inc. Southeast Asia article. “Perks and benefits should be seen as building a community and making employees feel connected to their workplace.”

How to give your team more freedom

As pointed out by this Inc. Southeast Asia article, too much flexibility without any guidance can actually lead your employees to burn themselves out. But there is a method to giving your employees more freedom.

Shelley Prevost, co-founder and CEO of Torch, wrote in this Inc. article that the secret lies in balance: you set the parameters, but give your employees choices. Taking the time to train your employees and making sure that you share the same values will also help you get on the same page, so you can be confident that even without your constant supervision, your team will be able to meet your expectations.