Autonomy in the Workplace: Boost Employee Productivity and Happiness

Offering employees flexibility is more than just a labor allocation and scheduling decision; it calls for evaluating tech, leadership, and workflows.
Adam ZakiApril 27, 2023
Autonomy in the Workplace: Boost Employee Productivity and Happiness
Photo: jacoblund

Between the communication limits of remote work, the empowerment felt by employees, and the influence technology has on how work is allocated, completed, and assessed, the days of managers closely managing their staff are gone in some organizations. The idea that professionals must be directly told when and where to complete their tasks is fading.

Autonomy, especially within corporate finance roles, can be granted to empower and improve morale and productivity among employees. Offering things like foosball tables and beer to encourage those to work in an office at a synchronized pace is losing legitimacy. Leaders who wish to offer their employees an ideal work environment may want to focus on doing less to dictate their work schedules and environment, not more. 

Leveraging the Human Condition

Human beings enjoy feeling like they are in control of their choices. Having self-determination both in and out of the workplace can have a beneficial effect on the long-term mental health of employees. According to the peer reviewed scientific journal Emotion and Motivation, leader autonomy support (LAS) is a cluster of supervisory behaviors theorized to facilitate self-determined motivation in employees, potentially enabling well-being and performance, and has many positive implications in the workplace. 

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By granting autonomy in the workplace, leaders are leveraging the human condition. Giving the right employees the ability to choose when, where, and how they work means individuals may be more productive and happier about their work. According to research by the Emotion and Motivation, the benefits of leaders using a LAS management style are extensive. Employees with self-determination can have multiple positive impacts, findings show.

“Beyond well-being, the ‘need-satisfying’ experiences and internalization of motivation produced by LAS may also impact a variety of workplace outcome variables, including work performance, job satisfaction, work engagement, and various work-related behaviors,” Emotion and Motivation researchers wrote. “When employees perceive that they are free to perform their work in their own way within an autonomy-supportive context, they may be more likely to find that work engaging, [to] possess more favorable evaluations of the job, and [to] proactively engage with their environment and others with whom they work.”

Productivity Gauging 

For CFOs, gauging productivity has been difficult. With the accounting shortage impacting many organizations, those developing technology to remedy the problem believe that productivity must work hand-in-hand with technology. For CFOs to grant autonomy to their accounting teams, according to Jason Richelson, CEO and co-founder of accounting software Bookkeep, partly depends on the technology they put in the hands of staff.

Jason Richelson

“Manual work caused accounting employees to leave,” said Richelson. “It’s tedious and miserable work. Good software that moves their work to automated workflows with exception management will keep them happy. Also, good technology that allows employees to answer questions and quickly fix client issues in real-time will improve worker morale.”

Richelson believes using proper metrics can play a big part in how executives gauge productivity.

“Output is better than hours worked, and revenue generated per employee is also a key number,” he said. “For the CFO, it’s the day of the month the books are considered closed [and] again, automation improves these numbers. I’m sure [employee flexibility] would improve talent retention, but if you don’t have the automation doing the work, you can’t [offer things like] four-day work weeks.” 

What Makes Up The Ideal Environment?

The optimal work environment changes based on the industry in which a role exists. Regardless of the role, some believe CFOs should use their authority to allocate funds and dictate processes to re-create the work environment. By controlling what is in their wherewithal to do so, CFOs can change how employees feel about their work.

“CFOs can implement performance and motivation metrics [and] bonuses, for each employee, work on the quality of service, analyze business processes, simplify internal procedures, motivate employees, and build transparency within the organization,” said Anar Mammadov, CEO of Senpex technology. “Ultimately, the quality of services depends on the employees.”

Anar Mammadov

According to Mammadov, it’s about understanding your employees’ needs and proactively addressing them as they change.

“Employees look for flexible shifts, [and] opportunities to participate in different training and self-improvement programs,” said Mammadov. “Offering employees more flexibility and a better work-life balance could attract and retain top talent, particularly those who value work-life balance and flexibility. [They want] opportunities to be heard, solutions for healthcare-related issues, and a positive work environment.”