Results Matter, not Presence
Increasing autonomy requires a cultural transformation moving away from norms valuing physical presence at the office to norms valuing results. Autonomy is about giving people increased control, but also giving them increased accountability. This means that people don’t have to show up at the office every day. And if they do choose to show up it might be at 4:30 in the afternoon. It also means that employees are allowed to skip meetings if they feel that attending the meeting isn’t going to help them meet their objectives. But they do have to produce results!
Many managers don’t trust that their employees are working if they don’t actually see them working. Trusting your employees to get their work done is the basis for positive relationships. Some people work better late at night. Others prefer the early morning. People are more effective when given the freedom to work when they are inspired or free from distractions.
Cultural change through words
Leaders need to discourage negative comments from coworkers based on assumptions that work can only happen when you are physically present. The best way to do this is by focusing conversations on work not time. Questions should address what needs to be done, not what time someone arrived or how many hours they spent on a project. This will prevent people from wasting time and energy trying to come up with excuses for why they came to work “late” instead of spending that time and energy producing results.
Cultural change through actions
Leaders’ actions also play a key role in establishing cultural norms. They have to walk the talk in order to convince others that they truly believe work is something you do, not a place you go. Until leaders are seen leaving the office at 3:30 to attend their daughter’s softball game or taking a two-hour lunch break to fit in a trip to the gym, others won’t feel comfortable doing the same.
What kind of culture does your company have? Are people trusted to work when, where, and how they choose? See if you can keep conversations at work focused on results and not time.