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The case for autonomous leadership in the remote workplace

While the temptation to monitor work-from-home employees is real, leaders who offer more freedom are having less trouble with the transition


As visionary as he was, Thomas Edison probably didn’t foresee the Big Brother implications of video surveillance when he premiered the Kinetograph, a primitive movie camera, back in 1891. And he certainly couldn’t have predicted that the technology he helped pioneer would eventually feed into algorithms that analyze keystrokes, web-browsing habits, and faces, all in the name of calculating a productivity score for anxious employers. Yet here we are, in the spring of 2020, with tech surveillance startups seeing an egregious uptick in sales and executives scratching their heads trying to solve the problem of how to promote productivity in a remote workforce.

While the temptation to monitor work-from-home employees is real, leaders who offer more freedom, even in the remote workplace, are having less trouble with the transition and noticing a remarkable upside.


It may seem counterintuitive, but giving employees the freedom to complete their work creatively without the pressure of logging their hourly input not only mitigates anxiety and builds trust; it leverages their individual strengths and can add more value to the process.

study from the University of Melbourne found that employees who were given more control over areas such as schedule, workflow, and input on strategy were more motivated, engaged, loyal, and mentally well. When employees were given more autonomy, the study showed, they were more likely to be self-driven and possess intrinsic motivation, which decreased the need for external rewards. It also showed teams were more competent and connected and less susceptible to burnout.

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