Power of Control: The Positive Correlation Between Autonomy & Work Engagement

I’m sure many of you can relate to the pleasant feeling of working in your sweatpants. A new reality where we’re not obligated to suit up, do our hair, or worry about traffic. When working from home, in a space free of peer pressure and micromanagers, employees are given appropriate flexibility to choose how they go about their work. Whether it’s time preference, or the way they prioritize their responsibilities, this new sense of control is proven to be a strong attribute for effective job performance.

Understanding the Job Demands-Resources Model

“When job demands are greater than the control afforded by the job or an individual’s ability to deal with those demands, there is a deterioration of their mental health and, accordingly, an increased likelihood of death.”

Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, assistant professor of organizational behavior and HR

According to research, the combination of a heavy workload and lack of autonomy can essentially lead to outcomes of employee burnout and exhaustion. On the contrary, employees with higher levels of control over their work reported positive effects on their overall well-being and job satisfaction. As we are all aware, the pandemic has opened up a new dimension of work that looks into not only the possibilities of permanent remote work, but the various attributes that lead to higher work engagement. With autonomy being one of these elements, the benefit of working from home offers further support to how important self-control is to employee morale.

Bringing Autonomy Back to the Office

Unfortunately, the ideals of working from home won’t last forever, at least in most companies. Now that businesses are gradually reopening, the fear of losing that flexibility begins to surface among returning employees. However, though the feelings of working from home and working in the office will significantly differ, autonomy can still be enjoyed in various ways no matter where you are. For instance,

  • With the help of pre-hiring assessments or a team-fit tool, leaders can use the results to understand one’s interests and work preferences, thus assigning them to tasks they would feel most confident and comfortable with.
  • Flexible work arrangements could continue including the option to work from home, giving people the opportunity to create a schedule that fits them best.
  • Employees who are well-trusted by their employers are also more likely to be committed and productive.

Depending on their skills, experience, and personality, everyone will have a slightly different way of approaching their job. Allowing and embracing these differences is a crucial step for organizations to grow, innovate, and succeed.