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Want happier, more productive employees? Be flexible

Sarah K. White | July 21, 2016
Research from PricewaterhouseCoopers highlights the growing demand for flexibility and autonomy at work. Embracing independence might be the only way for companies to succeed.

"With autonomy to mold and appropriate, you empower employees with the ability to take an initiative to change behaviors -- when to adopt, what to appropriate and, in general, how to support, enable, and augment their work with IT," she says.

Small businesses have happier employees

While big companies like Google and Facebook might be well-known for their office perks and non-traditional work environments, the study found that it's actually small businesses who come out on top with flexibility.

Of those in the study who worked at large companies, 86 percent said they would like to work from home one or more days a week, but only 26 percent said they actually did. For those who worked at small businesses, however, more than half said they are allowed one or more work from home days per week.

Bigger companies can learn from their smaller counterparts -- the study points to companies like Microsoft and Cisco, which both implemented flexible company-wide work from home policies.

The study goes on to point out how, according to data from PayScale, 70 percent of Microsoft employees are "highly satisfied" with their job, and 75 percent of Cisco employees say the same.

A shift to automation

Harder says that a lot of this change comes as a result of automation in the workplace -- apps, programs and even robots are taking away much of the mundane, paper-pushing work employees had to do in the past. As a result, they're freed up to spend more time doing, what she calls, "non-routine cognitive work."

That means, your employees can be valuable resources around innovation and creating a collaborative, unique and motivated work environment.

The hardest part, she says, is typically for managers who have a knee-jerk reaction to "command and control." Part of embracing an independent and autonomous workforce is letting go of micromanagement and embracing trust with your employees.

But the change needs to go all the way up to the C-Suite, with executives leading the charge. "As a manager, you often think that you are the one that sees the broader and bigger picture of the situation.

But hierarchies are falling, and information is no longer selectively distributed throughout and down the hierarchy to a select few. In a networked and connected world where information is digitized, people have the same insights," she says.

Employees are ready for change

The study found that 41 percent of non-independent workers planned to become independent within the next year, and 53 percent said within the next five years. Of those surveyed, 63 percent said they expect that the eight-hour day will soon be obsolete and 68 percent believe that soon the majority of work will be completed remotely, rather than in an office.


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