Sweaty from your mid-morning Pelton ride you log back into your computer refreshed and energized. You quickly finish the report for the afternoon Zoom sales call with the team and shower so you will be ready for cocktails in the park with your friends at 5:00 pm.
However, your good mood quickly turns sour.
Tomorrow none of this will be possible. You will be in your cubicle at your company’s corporate headquarters and have no flexibility.
So, how do you make your office days feel as flex as remote?
Lean into the power of autonomy
Researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan developed a theory, called self-determination theory, that asserts that autonomy is one of our instinctive psychological needs. When this need is thwarted, our motivation, productivity, and happiness plummet.
When you support your autonomy needs, you are more productive, have greater job satisfaction, less burnout, and have higher levels of psychological well-being.
Human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous. When that drive is liberated, you will achieve more and be more engaged and fulfilled. This is beneficial for you and your employer.
Identify your need for autonomy
Control and choice over when, how, where, and with whom you work is vital to support your autonomy needs. However, if you are unclear on what your requirements are, you cannot make your office days feel as flexible as your days working from home.
Answer the questions below to identify your autonomy needs:
- How much autonomy do you currently have over your tasks—the primary responsibilities of your job and what you do in a day—when you work from home? What changes do you experience when you work in the office? What ideas do you have to address decreases, if any, in your task autonomy?
- How much autonomy do you currently have over your time at work? For example: when you log in, when you log off for the day, and how you allocate your time each day when you work from home? What changes when you work in the office? What ideas do you have to address decreases in your time autonomy?
- How much autonomy do you have over with whom you work when you work from home? What changes when you work in the office? What ideas do you have to address shifts to your team autonomy?
- How much autonomy do you have over how you complete your tasks each day when you work from home? What, if any, changes do you experience when you work in the office? What ideas do you have to address decreases, if any, in your execution autonomy?
Challenge your assumptions and get creative
Now that you have identified your autonomy needs, the second step is to challenge any assumptions that you have about your autonomy needs being met when you are in the office and get creative.
For example, is there a written corporate policy that prohibits you from going for a run at 11:00 am when you are at the office? Or did you assume that this would be forbidden or frowned upon? Check your assumptions.
Once you have examined your assumptions and decoupled the stories you tell yourself from the facts, you are ready to get creative. If you want to work out mid-morning, could you invite a colleague to join you on your run? Or could you host a walking team meeting?
When you address your autonomy need and combine it with one of the benefits of being in the office—connection with colleagues—you have designed a creative and impactful solution.
Discuss your need for autonomy with your manager
The final step to make your office days feel as flexible as your work-from-home days is to have a conversation with our manager. Discuss your autonomy needs and your ideas to address any decreases when you are in the office. Explore how you can partner to co-create an experience that meets both your and the company’s needs.
The workplace has changed. Now is the time to challenge the status quo of “work” and embrace the evolving workplace. You can make your days in the office feel as flex as remote when you know your autonomy needs, prevent your assumptions from hijacking what may be possible, and co-create a job with your manager that enables you and the company to thrive.
Carson Tate is the founder and managing partner of Working Simply, Inc., a business consulting firm that partners with organizations, business leaders, and employees to enhance workplace productivity, foster employee engagement, and build personal and professional legacies. She is the author of Own It. Love It. Make It Work: How To Make Any Job Your Dream Job.