Pressured working environments do not encourage productivity and a good work-life blend, certainly not in any sustainable manner.  There is far more evidence to support the idea that autonomy, having control and the ability to make choices, actually provides a far improved working environment, happier employees and productivity.  Simply, the more control you have over your own career and day to day work, the less stressed and pressured you will feel. 

What does autonomy look like at work? 

In our blog, Autonomy and Workplace Happiness, we describe workplace autonomy as 'Feeling trusted to complete your tasks.  Not being micromanaged, enjoying the freedom to complete work in a way which suits you.'  How it actually looks and works will vary from person to person and from organisation to organisation, but most likely it will be along the lines of being able to decide when you take a break, choosing what you do at work each day, having a say over when you work and being able to access various flexible working options.   

How does autonomy reduce pressure? 

The knowledge of being in control is an instant source of pressure release, the feeling that you are in charge of your life is incredibly empowering.  In many ways, we can think of autonomy as a basic need.  By being able to control our own working environment and make our own decisions, we can feel like we are being treated as individuals, not replaceable cogs in a machine.  

What practical changes can you make? 

In terms of actual practical differences and changes autonomy in the workplace can make, it’s worth thinking about energy management.  Co-authors of The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Shwartz, argue that people should match their energy to a task in order to excel and that managing energy is far more important than managing time.  They feel that time spent effectively ‘doing nothing’ is time very well spent, allowing you the energy to complete the tasks you really need to, when you need to.  Ways you could incorporate this into your own working day include: 

-Thinking about when you are naturally more productive - can you match your priorities to when you have the most energy? 

-Make time for thinking, taking a walk, talking with friends and colleagues, giving yourself a change of scenery and pace.  

-Think about time blocking (methods such as Pomodoro) and schedule times for deep concentrated work. 

Working smarter could really help to boost your wellbeing and that of your colleagues too. If you’d like some more great ideas for how to make work one of your happy places, why not sign up to our newsletter, or perhaps check out our Workplace Motivation blog?