In the modern workplace, autonomy is now king.
Research has shown that personal autonomy at work increases job satisfaction, which leads to higher engagement, and correlates with lower employee turnover.
Given the choice, many employees prefer working remotely and having some control over their schedules.
In some professions, like programming, more are working from home than ever before; some are even beginning to demand it.
The idea has gained so much traction that even Japan’s highly traditional workplaces are adopting it.
But all that autonomy might come at a cost. A new working paper shows that when workers deviate from an organization’s prescribed schedule of when they should complete their tasks, there is a drop in productivity.
The study from Harvard Business School shows autonomy might hurt productivity. This decline in productivity correlated with experience—the more experienced the workers were, the less their productivity was impacted to do tasks. However, the productivity decline still remained significant for even the most experienced workers.
While the study did not determine exactly why this was happening, researchers suggest that one possible reason could be the time taken to make the decision of what to do next, in order to improve the speed of work, actually hampers productivity.
While taking the decision-making out of daily work might improve productivity for employees performing routine tasks, the evidence suggests that creative people’s brains work differently and the results might look different for companies whose employees perform more creative tasks.