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Preserving Employee Autonomy When Bringing Your Workforce Back to the Office

Posted January 24th, 2024 in Articles

For many employees, one of the key benefits of working remotely is autonomy. When they don’t feel tied to their desks or pressured to stay at the office past 5:00 pm, they are generally more satisfied with their work-life balance.

They are also generally more productive.

According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), “autonomy not only reduces workers’ fatigue by 1.9 times, it also makes them 2.3 times more likely to stay with the organization.” As a result, giving workers more autonomy can be cost-effective for employers as well, as it reduces the costs of recruitment, onboarding and employee turnover.

How Can Employers Promote Autonomy When Bringing Employees Back to Work?

In the post-pandemic era, many companies are seeking to bring their workforces back to the office. But, many are also facing pushback from employees who don’t see a problem with working from home. So, how are companies doing it successfully? As the HBR article explains, one of the keys may be helping employees maintain a sense of autonomy.

The article suggests a spectrum of strategies that range from preserving autonomy (what the article refers to as “do no harm” strategies) to amplifying autonomy in the workplace. On the “do no harm” end of the scale, the article suggests allowing teams to establish their own scheduling norms. For example, if everyone on a team prefers working starting work at 7:30 am instead of 9:00 am so that they can go home early, then there might not be a reason to force the team’s members into a more traditional work schedule.

On the amplification end of the scale, the article suggests a “remote first” approach with planned in-person meetings. But, here too, scheduling flexibility can be key. If employees are forced to rearrange their personal schedules to attend in-person meetings, this approach could have the opposite of its intended effect. As a result, effective communication is critical, and employers must truly be willing to consider their employees’ wants and needs (within reason).

In between these two ends, the article suggests strategies including:

  • On-site food options (so that employees can eat when they want without having to drive or prepare meals at home); and,
  • Subsidized (or free) childcare, pet care and commuting costs (so that employees don’t bear the full cost of their employer’s decision to implement an in-office work policy).

Of course, these options will be more feasible for some companies than others. Ultimately, as with all human resources-related decisions, the key is to take a custom-tailored approach. What works for one company won’t necessarily work for another, and employees will be more satisfied, more loyal and more productive if they feel like their voices are being heard.

Speak with a Human Resources Consultant at Mithras Investments

Do you have questions about bringing your company’s workforce back to the office? If so, we invite you to get in touch. Please call 305-517-7911 or send us a message online to schedule an appointment with a human resources consultant at Mithras Investments. 

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