Being and Belonging at Work: Why it matters.

Finding Freedom at Work

The word “freedom,” as applied  to work, might seem odd at first glance. Because it doesn’t always mean you get to do whatever you want. But it does mean you have control over aspects of the projects you’re tasked with. Just because workers want freedom does not mean everyone needs to start their own company to feel fulfilled. But it does mean they need the agency to feel like they have an impact on decisions being made.

Catherine left her old job for an industry where she could feel empowered. It might not always be feasible to give an employee full freedom, but there are tips managers can follow to help provide that sense of employee agency:

Manager Tips

Take a step back from immediately providing solutions and answers. You’ve hired those employees for a reason. They are the right person for the job. Each individual is unique. and brings a wealth of knowledge in areas you might not have. Chances are, they’ll come up with an even better solution if you give them the chance.

The pandemic showed that working remotely is not just a fad, that can only work for some. This won’t work in all professions but allowing someone to customize  their hours and worksite can give them a level of autonomy that really requires very little on your part. Allowing them to choose when to work allows them to set time for themselves to be fully focused, and come to work as their best self.

But employers aren’t the only ones who should be knowledgeable about freedom. Perhaps as an individual contributor, you have felt unfulfilled at work. What can you do to try and give yourself that freedom?

Employee Tips

The first step is to understand what version of autonomy you’re looking for. Sit down and think about past work experiences that you felt went poorly. How could they have been better if you had more autonomy in the situation? Do you need more flexible deadlines? More opportunities to voice your opinion as things go wrong or right?

Offering opinions and recommendations is one of the first steps to taking charge of your work. Is a process not working as well as it could be? Is a new change detrimental to the way you work? Unless you voice that opinion, nothing can change. Set structured meetings with your boss to have time for these concerns or set up retrospective meetings on a monthly cadence to define what is and isn’t working. It’s also important to understand how you feel comfortable giving this feedback. Determine if you want to speak with someone 1:1 or take your time to formulate a structured plan to hand off to others. Whatever medium you choose, make sure you’re sharing your perspective.

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