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Tips for Creating a Flexible Work Environment

02 Dec


A large portion of the workforce worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and employees want to continue doing so. A report from HR Daily Advisor shows 59% of employees would prefer to work remotely beyond 2021.

However, remote work is just one type of flexible work environment. While most people understand what remote work is, many don’t know the concept of autonomy in the workplace. Autonomy is the power to shape your work environment in ways that allow you to perform at your best. It’s important to note that autonomy does not mean an employee can do what they want whenever they want. Organizations must set boundaries if they want to offer employees more autonomy.

Forbes describes autonomy as an umbrella for choices, independence, solitude, and empowerment. By providing a flexible work environment, employee morale and happiness in the workplace will be boosted.

However, happiness and increased morale in the workplace are just a few benefits of autonomy. Offering autonomy to employees also has a great impact on recruiting. In fact, a national study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), shows 87% of employees said flexibility in their next job was either important or very important in determining where to apply and accept positions. 

Despite the desire for more freedom, only 18% of employees believe they’re given enough freedom; and 50% agree they are satisfied with the level of autonomy they have at work.

If you want to provide your employees with a more flexible work environment and a higher level of autonomy, we have a few tips to help.

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Conduct Trial Runs

Like anything brand new, autonomous work policies won’t be perfect on the first try. You need to allow for errors in order to create a strong foundation for your new policies.

During these trials, it’s important to conduct employee evaluations to gain insight on the program…what’s working, what isn’t, and how it’s impacting each employee. As an employer, it’s imperative that you adapt to employees’ changing needs.

By learning what will help your employees thrive, you’ll be able to create a better, flexible work environment.

Be Certain All Employees Understand the Guidelines

An autonomous workplace can’t be successful if your employees don’t comply with the set guidelines. Employees should be made aware of the autonomous work rules and restrictions at the time of their onboarding.

If you provide details past the onboarding process, it’ll cause confusion and leave room for breaks in compliance. Furthermore, if you implement an autonomous work environment policy, you will have to train the employees who are already working for your organization.

It is ideal that you recruit “autonomous” employees—employees who can manage to set their own schedules, complete work, and remain accountable for the freedoms they are given. Be sure to ask questions that provide insight into a potential hire’s decision-making.

Give Employees Control Over their Work

If you are going to offer autonomy to employees, you can’t second guess their decisions. One study shows when managers asked their employees whether they feel appropriately involved in decisions that affect their work, 32% said they did not.

Furthermore, when managers asked their teams if they feel they are in control when it comes to the work they need to accomplish, 20% admit that they do not. If employees don’t have ownership of their work, it will have a negative impact on your workplace autonomy and the overall success of the business.

By allowing your employees to own their tasks and accomplishments, you are building a culture of trust within your organization.

Provide the Necessary Tools

If your employees are going to be working at various hours and in different locations, they need to be equipped with the tools that will help them succeed. Whether it be a laptop or software solution, or a platform to communicate like Teams or Slack, your team shouldn’t have any technology deficiencies just because they aren’t in the physical office.

If you allow for autonomy without providing your employees with essential resources, you’re going to see a decline in retention.

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Ask for Help

Creating a flexible work environment for your employees isn’t a simple task. Creating the guidelines can be unfamiliar, especially if you haven’t experimented with autonomous work before. If you need help, there are resources and guidance available to you. A professional employer organization (PEO) can provide the resources you need to make sound business decisions. You won’t need to worry about compliance and payroll, a PEO will have you covered.

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