autonomy at work

Autonomy at work: what is it and how can we improve it

Autonomy at work is what most employees aspire to. In fact, it is what every employee should experience, especially those who feel more confident in their way of doing things and their ability to achieve it. 

It is also a well-known trait among managers and team leaders: nobody has ever told someone in their charge that they “need to be more autonomous at work“, especially during a probation period. This kind of phrase is a double-edged sword, as we will see later on. 

In this post, we will explore how having autonomy at work is a fundamental factor for a company’s performance.

What is autonomy at work?

It is clear that gaining autonomy at work is an essential milestone when recruiting any employee in a company. In fact, it is inherent to the learning process. It is, quite simply, the employee’s ability to carry out their duties on their own without needing a great deal of outside help or supervision. 

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Autonomy at work is the first challenge whenever we take on new tasks requiring training and skills that have not yet reached their peak. Moreover, as mentioned above, the ability to manage ourselves autonomously at work also allows us to not interfere in others’ work and to do without their help and constant supervision to avoid hindering the performance of both. 

autonomy at work

Autonomy at work and onboarding

Job autonomy is among the factors closely measured during an employees’ probation period who has just joined the company and which runs parallel to their training period. In fact, it goes without saying that calling it a training period sounds friendlier and less intimidating for the trainee (the employee), which is a good basis for their preparation. 

Regardless of its duration, every onboarding process includes phases that start at a point where autonomy in the workplace is low and, therefore, the employee needs a high level of supervision from a manager or a colleague. 

Over time, it is desirable that this role evolves until the employee who has joined the team has acquired a high level of autonomy at work and, therefore, requires little or no external supervision on an ongoing basis. 

Taking responsibility at one’s own pace

Autonomy at work, as in all other aspects of life, is directly linked to responsibility: the more autonomy I acquire, the more responsibility I have. Therefore, autonomy at work should not be understood as “I go my own way”, without being accountable to anyone and regardless of the consequences of my actions. On the contrary: autonomy implies I take responsibility for those consequences and am accountable for my results. 

Autonomy at work should be encouraged whenever it is considered to be positive for the employee’s productivity and for the team’s performance, and this approach is the most common. 

Clearly, not all employees are suited to the positions they hold and, in the early stages of their employment, it becomes apparent that some do not have all the skills required to gain autonomy in the job and be able to fully integrate into the team, bringing agility and good performance. These things happen and serve as a constant reminder in all HR departments that recruitment is not always a precise process.

However, there are many types of skills and talents and not all of them manifest themselves quickly, without indicating that the employee is unsuitable for the position. The person simply needs more time and, of course, the right training methodology to bring out their full potential. This way, at the end of the probation/training period, the company does not have to lose a valuable employee just because they are not the fastest in the world at acquiring autonomy on the job, but a little slower or more dependent in their learning process.

The manager as a catalyst for labor autonomy

One of the most common mistakes made by team managers or supervisors is to think that this process of encourgaingemployee autonomy is a matter of demanding it from them: reminding them that they are expected to be autonomous, pressuring them not to ask for help, and sitting back and waiting for autonomy at work to come through out of the blue in that team member’s performance.

These are also cases of managers who repeat the phrase “You have to gain autonomy” like a mantra, but who don’t quite hit the nail on the head when it comes to truly encouraging autonomy at work. When this happens, it is likely that behind an employee who is not gaining autonomy at work at the pace required by the company, there is a manager who has abdicated part of their responsibility to train and support their team members.

autonomy at work

Emotional well-being for companies

At ifeel, we understand that it is not possible to take care of the company without taking care of the psychological well-being of its employees. To do so, we have an emotional well-being program for companies, designed by our team of occupational well-being psychologists with one main objective: to help companies place employee health at the center of their strategy to build their mission statement.  

Thanks to this partnership, the people in charge of HR departments can receive personalized, data-driven advice on how to make good decisions in a company to get the most out of the teams they are in charge of and take better care of the psychological well-being of the people in them. 

Moreover, this program offers employees a holistic mental health care service structured at different levels according to their needs. This service includes, if required, online psychological therapy with a psychologist specialized in cases like theirs. Try our program today so you can see how it could help you.

We hope you have found this post about autonomy at work useful. If you want more information about our emotional well-being program for companies, simply request it and we will contact your team as soon as possible.

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