You Deserve Workplace Freedom
January 26, 2017

You Deserve Workplace Freedom

by Brian de Haaff

I love being outside. Just last week I went snowshoeing with some friends in Yosemite. But when I told a colleague about my trip, she wrinkled her nose. Snowshoeing? No thanks. Curling up indoors with a good novel is her idea of a good time.

We like what we like. And that makes it tough for employers who are earnestly trying to figure out what will make their employees stick around. What will make a meaningful difference and boost the team’s satisfaction and engagement?

The answer to retaining talented folks is somewhat of an oxymoron — surprisingly simple yet complex. What most people want is flexibility.

A Leadership IQ study found that employees were more likely to love their jobs if they had more flexibility over their work. About 24 percent of employees working daily in offices said they loved their jobs, compared with 38 percent of mobile workers and 45 percent of telecommuters.

Autonomy is a good thing. In fact, you will find that autonomy over how and where you work leads to accomplishing more than ever before. And yes, people will still work hard even if they are out of sight.

I know this firsthand — Aha! is a completely distributed company. We all work remotely from our home office or local coffee shops and in our own time zones. It is hard to fathom returning to traditional office life. Our company is growing incredibly fast. Proof positive that flexibility is not a hindrance to scaling a business.

More flexibility helps our team at Aha! enjoy: Healthy lifestyles Matt Case did not have to sacrifice his love for the outdoors when he joined Aha! — he still spends time on the trails and slopes near his home in Utah. As for me, I start my mornings with a bike ride, rather than a commute. (And when UX designer Ray Galang spotted a photo of me in my Aha! cycling kit, he knew that we shared a passion for outdoor adventure and sent in his resume.)

Better relationships Working on a distributed team helps us all make fewer tough trade-offs. After spending much of her career traveling, Tahlia Sutton and her family decided to put down roots in Hawaii. Now as part of our Customer Success team, Tahlia can concentrate on her family while also pursuing a challenging career. Flexibility allows us all to be more present in the lives of our friends and family. Fewer missed milestones and we are able to help out when necessary.

More freedom Who says you have to relocate for career opportunities? When software engineer John Bohn wanted to relocate his family from Nashville to western New York, remote work expanded his opportunities — allowing him to live and work where he is happiest. His teammate Jeremy Geros has helped build the Aha! application while working from both Mexico City and his native New Zealand.

You may be wondering what offering more flexibility could actually look like for your company. How can you make it work?

Well, it does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Even if you are not ready to embrace the notion of a fully distributed team, you could offer flexible schedules or allow several team members to work from home a few days a week, while you evaluate the possibility of extending it to everyone.

Yes, granting more flexibility to employees requires an open mind and a leap of faith. You must trust that the team will work as hard — or even harder — than before. And you must ensure people are equipped to communicate, work efficiently, and stay engaged.

Once you have more freedom, I think you will see that motivation and happiness level rise. And that is something that you cannot put a price on.

Do you have the freedom to work remotely?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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