The freedom to work remotely, the freedom of being your own boss, and the freedom to choose how you spend your time are all important aspects of what it means to be free. This is one of the main reasons why people are drawn to freelancing or starting their own business. However, when you’re in a position where you have multiple bosses who can make decisions for you without consulting with you first, that sense of freedom disappears.
The the real meaning of freedom at work adam grant is a book by Adam Grant. It discusses the concept of freedom in the workplace, and how to reach it.
As the Covid-19 epidemic enters a new phase, many businesses have begun to demand that we return to work full-time. People are leaving their employment in droves as a result. According to a survey of more than 5,000 LinkedIn users, flexibility is now the fastest-growing employment goal in the United States. Over half of Americans aspire to be self-employed in their future career, whether as entrepreneurs, freelancers in the gig economy, or content curators in the creator economy.
Many individuals experienced new kinds of flexibility when Covid liberated us from our workplaces, and the taste of freedom left us wanting more. We began to reconsider our goals for work. The Great Resignation, on the other hand, is not a hasty exit from power; it is the conclusion of a protracted march toward liberty. Psychologists discovered a generational change in the importance of employment in our lives more than a decade ago. Millennials, as opposed to Gen Xers and baby boomers, were more interested in employment that offered leisure and vacation time. They were more concerned with net freedom than with net wealth.
The philosopher Isaiah Berlin differentiated between two kinds of freedom in a famous 1958 lecture. Negative liberty refers to the independence from external impediments and intervention. Positive liberty refers to the ability to choose your own path and create your own life. We need to increase both positive and negative liberty if we want to maximize net freedom in the future of employment.
Rira Raisi of San Francisco is one of the millions of people in the United States who wish to continue working from home after the epidemic.
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The argument about whether work should be done in person, remotely, or a combination of both is too limited. People do desire the ability to choose where they work. They do, however, desire the flexibility to choose who they work with, what they work on, and when they work. Having the freedom to select your employees, your mission, and your priorities is true flexibility.
Working from home has given us some unwelcome freedoms. It has the power to free workers from micromanagers’ shackles, traffic congestion, and the noise of open workplaces. However, it has imposed additional time restrictions. Many individuals said they spent the bulk of their work time in meetings and on emails even before Covid. Collaboration overload only worsened after everyone was accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When more than 10,000 workers of a major Asian IT firm began working from home during the pandemic, productivity dropped even as working hours rose, according to a research conducted by economist Michael Gibbs. The physical and emotional toll of Covid was not measured by the researchers, but the data indicated that individuals got less done since they had less time to concentrate. They were trapped in more group sessions and were more often interrupted.
“Good segmentation rules enable employees to commit to predictable time off, which protects them against work intrusions.”
We need stronger limits to liberate individuals from these restrictions. Working from home has been shown to be more stressful for “segmentors,” who like to keep the various realms of life distinct, than for “integrators,” who seek to blur the boundaries. People may commit to scheduled time off that protects them from work interruptions when they have good segmentation rules in place. Vynamic, for example, has a regulation dubbed “zzzMail” that prohibits sending emails late at night or on weekends.
Individual concentration time need limits as well. The intensity of connection, not the frequency of interaction, is what drives productivity and innovation in distant teams. Collaboration specialists Christoph Riedl and Anita Woolley studied virtual software teams and found that the most successful and creative teams didn’t interact every hour. They’d focus on their own task for many hours or days before conversing in short spurts. Their collaborations were practically overflowing with energy and ideas, with messages and pieces of code flying back and forth.
Blocking quiet time in the mornings as a window for serious work and then getting together after lunch seems to be a successful approach. People are less prone to multitask during virtual meetings conducted in the afternoon, perhaps because they have made progress on their own work. Many companies are using hybrid schedules with one or two remote days each week, and it may be beneficial to have teams plan on-site days so they can perform individual work at home while collaborating while they’re in the same room.
Remote employees’ propensity to have smaller, more segmented personal networks may be addressed through virtual get-togethers.
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We’ve found a new limitation of remote work in the last year and a half: Zoom fatigue. Yes, shutting off your self-view may help you feel less self-conscious, but it still leaves you with the cognitive burden of thinking about how other people will see you and attempting to interpret their facial expressions. It may be beneficial to turn the camera off entirely. Employees at a healthcare company were given the freedom to turn off their video during virtual meetings in a summer 2020 experiment led by organizational psychologists Kristen Shockley and Allison Gabriel, which reduced fatigue—especially for women and new hires, who are under more pressure to maintain their image.
According to new study, having voice-only discussions isn’t only less stressful; it may also be more productive at times. When two individuals working on an issue together can only hear each other’s voices, they’re more inclined to take a break to listen to each other, resulting in more equal speaking time and better choices. Also, if you’re attempting to read someone’s emotions, shut your eyes or turn out the lights and just listen to their speech, you’ll be more accurate.
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This isn’t to say that cameras should never be used. When delivering a presentation, establishing trust, or attempting to manage a large group, seeing real faces may be beneficial. However, videos may be a constraint—they aren’t required at every meeting. The phone call may be the most underutilized technology in 2021.
Remote employment has relieved certain constraints in a world of increasing inequality. During the epidemic, many working women suffered, in part due to the duty of child care while schools were closed. However, research indicates that working remotely is particularly beneficial for working moms in typical conditions, providing them the freedom to succeed in their professions. Additionally, Black workers who work from home have reported feeling less stressed. According to one study, 97 percent of Black knowledge workers who are presently working from home intend to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
Going distant, on the other hand, carries the danger of restricting positive freedoms. A team headed by economist Nicholas Bloom randomly assigned hundreds of workers to work from home in a landmark 2014 experiment at a contact center in China. Despite being 13 percent more productive, distant employees were only half as likely to be promoted, owing to a lack of face contact with top managers.
Many managers mistake visibility for value and reward presence rather than performance, as shown by many studies. Employees who obtain freedom from restrictions as a result of remote work may lose the opportunity to improve their careers and enhance their abilities.
The ability to select who we connect with and learn from is one form of good liberty. Researchers discovered that when more than 60,000 Microsoft workers switched to remote work during the pandemic, their personal networks were more segregated and stagnant. There were fewer new connections between individuals, fewer team bridges, and fewer real-time group discussions. It became more difficult to acquire and exchange information as a result of this.
An ‘outside office’ at Farragut Square, Washington, D.C., on May 4.
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We must strive harder to open doors in order to offer them the opportunity to study. Researchers joined up with a major corporation in the summer of 2020 to recruit over a thousand interns to work remotely in 16 locations. They discovered that arranging “virtual water coolers,” or casual encounters with senior managers, improved intern satisfaction, performance evaluations, and the likelihood of receiving a return offer. Three or four virtual sessions with top management were all it took to start the process of learning, mentoring, and trust. What if a larger number of leaders had virtual office hours?
Another element of positive liberty is the ability to choose what we do for a living. I went to a California tomato paste business named Morning Star a few years ago to see how they’ve managed to succeed for decades without managers. When you initially start at Morning Star, you’re given your predecessor’s job. You’re welcome to update your work description after a year, but there are two restrictions. You’ll need to explain how your new position will help the business achieve its goals, and you’ll need to persuade the individuals who work with you the most to agree.
“Employees who have the freedom to personalize their job are more productive, happy, and inclined to remain.”
This is referred to as “job crafting” by organizational psychologists Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton, because it allows individuals to become active builders of their own work and relationships. Employees who have the freedom to personalize their job are more productive, happy, and likely to remain, according to extensive study.
The ability to choose when and how much we labor may be the most important source of positive liberty. If the remote work epidemic has taught us anything, it’s that people aren’t shirking from home—they’re working extra. The 40-hour workweek, on the other hand, was not decreed from on high; it is a human creation that arose from the Industrial Revolution. Anthropologists discovered that humans had more free time for more than 95 percent of human history than we have today. Hunter-gatherers worked 15-hour weeks for generations. We began to conflate time spent with value produced when we began treating people like machines.
Leaders at Semco, a Brazilian manufacturing firm, observed that when individuals reach retirement age and are finally able to follow their interests for travel, sports, the arts, and volunteering, their health frequently gets in the way. As a result, the business launched the Retire-A-Little program, which allows employees to exchange 10% of their salary for Wednesdays off. Workers in their 50s were supposed to be interested, but it was employees in their 20s who leapt at the chance to exchange money for time.
Employees are more productive when they may choose when and where they work, according to research.
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When individuals have the option to labor less, they are more likely to concentrate and create more. Researchers believe that businesses in the United States spend $100 billion a year paying for idle time. Productivity increased by 40% and expenses decreased when Microsoft Japan tried a 4-day workweek. Over a four-year period, the Icelandic government experimented with lowering workweeks from 40 to 36 hours at the same pay in workplaces, hospitals, and police stations. It discovered that productivity was maintained—and in some instances increased—while well-being and work-life balance improved.
Allowing employees to work less is a great way to recruit, motivate, and retain top talent. The number of job ads offering a four-day workweek quadrupled between 2018 and 2021, but they still account for fewer than one in every 100 positions. It’s worth reconsidering the workday in addition to reducing the workweek. What if we ended at 3 p.m., allowing working parents to be with their kids when they got home from school? Would six concentrated hours provide greater results—and a higher quality of life—than eight unfocused hours?
“Flexible work will continue to exist, but businesses that oppose it may not.”
Flexible employment is here to stay, but businesses who refuse to embrace it may find themselves in trouble. Before Covid, one of the greatest errors I saw businesses make was neglecting to experiment with new kinds of freedom. Asking individuals about the experiments they’ve conducted in the last year and a half, as well as the ones they’d want to attempt in the future, may be a smart place to start as employers consider returning to the office. What old restraints should we strive to eliminate, and what new liberties should we experiment with?
Work is more than simply a means of subsistence for us. In our lives, it may provide order, affiliation, and purpose. That does not, however, imply that our work should determine how we spend the majority of our waking hours. We’ve built our lives around our jobs for many generations. Our occupations have dictated where we live, when we see our family, and what we can fit into our spare time. Perhaps it’s time to start scheduling our work around our personal life.
— Dr. Grant is a Wharton School of Business organizational psychologist. He is the presenter of the TED podcast “WorkLife” and the author of “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.”
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