What Does It Mean to Work Autonomously? (Plus Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 December 2022

Published 22 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Companies that promote an autonomous work schedule give employees the independence to finish tasks on their own. Team members are usually responsible for setting up their timeframes, directing procedures, collecting resources and delivering items before the deadline. Autonomy helps to boost motivation by allowing team members to feel more valued and trusted. In this article, we describe what working autonomously means, discuss why it's essential, list the benefits and provide ways to implement autonomy in a company.

What does working autonomously mean?

Working autonomously involves managers setting broad goals and deadlines for their team and allowing employees to create a plan to achieve these objectives independently. This work style can give individuals a sense of accountability that increases their motivation. It can also help team members succeed when working remotely. If you're working as an autonomous employee, you may use self-motivation to achieve your goals.

Autonomous employees may work on one project without the supervision of team leaders or managers. Each colleague may have their own tasks to pursue towards a collective outcome.

Why is autonomy important in the workplace?

Autonomy is key to developing innovative ideas in the workplace. It ensures your team members have a sense of belonging and become invested in each project. As a result, the company makes the most out of the employee's potential and meets collective goals. Many enterprising companies opt for an autonomous work method for lower-level roles, which spares some time for management to focus on other high-level duties.

Related: 7 Ways to Improve Working Independently and Productively

Benefits of autonomous work

Autonomous working may benefit both managers and team members. Team members may also use this opportunity to develop their careers, remain flexible and gain valuable skills. Here are some benefits of working autonomously:

Encourages faster project turnaround

Autonomous leaders usually state their goals and targets to the team members and allow them to create an action plan that suits the way they operate. This method enables employees to have full autonomy to make crucial decisions without waiting for the manager's approval. As a result, this approach speeds up progress and eliminates administrative work that comes with following the business hierarchy.

Offers more opportunities for creativity

As everyone on a team has full control over how they complete their work, they can develop innovative solutions for each project. Many workplaces that use autonomous methods also conduct research on the latest industry trends and prepare resources and share them with their team to encourage innovation and uniqueness. Now that team members have fewer restrictions on working procedures, it's easier to put experimental ideas into practice.

Increases a sense of responsibility

When professionals are responsible for their own productivity, it may make them feel more compelled to finish the project on time. As an autonomous leader, you may inspire your team to experiment and provide them with opportunities to learn. This makes your team members' jobs more enjoyable and gives them a higher sense of purpose.

Shows team members you value them

A team may feel valued and engaged when managers trust their co-workers to create strategies and carry out projects. As a result, colleagues trust each other to complete tasks, build self-confidence and improve from feedback to further develop their careers. Additionally, employees that can manage their own time and follow their own schedule may feel an extra sense of accomplishment after completing a successful project.

Encourages leadership qualities

A sense of responsibility encourages individuals to employ excellent leadership qualities to manage projects independently. Companies with autonomous working methods may also conduct frequent seminars and training sessions to help employees sharpen their skills and grow their professional careers remotely. Individuals entering the workforce may also enrol in a virtual internship to develop their self-awareness, personal leadership qualities and autonomy.

Related: Top 6 Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

Tips to encourage autonomous working

Implementing autonomy in the workplace can offer great opportunities to be unique and innovative. It starts by ensuring you have the right team members and establishing practical communication methods to maintain clarity. Here are some steps you can take to encourage autonomy in a company:

Hire people who are comfortable with autonomy

Understanding your potential team members' approach to autonomy can help you determine their sense of responsibility and whether they are open to such flexibility. If you're looking to use autonomous working methods, try to talk openly about autonomy and how a regular day at the office would look. This transparency ensures you employ determined individuals that are comfortable working autonomously.

Allow colleagues to make choices

When you allocate tasks to your team members, you may give them the freedom to make choices and create a healthy workflow. They may use their experience and expertise to complete tasks using their preferred methods. Allowing employees to manage their own work may encourage productivity and hold them accountable for their actions. These actions can also help your co-workers grow by evaluating their progress and developing creative strategies that boost their motivation.

You can also implement various flexible work arrangements, like remote work, flexible hours and job-sharing opportunities, to ensure employees operate in their preferred workspace. As a result, employees may feel more comfortable and produce better work. It can also help them maintain a healthy work-life balance, which increases job satisfaction.

Related: How to Practise Adaptability in the Workplace

Grant ownership of projects

Granting employees ownership of a project helps them feel empowered and realise their value in the company. You may do this by assessing the strengths of each team member and delegating smaller responsibilities first. Next, depending on their performance on the initial tasks, you may increase their level of responsibility. Easing employees into project management can help them adjust to their duties.

Encourage regular updates between employees and managers

An effective way to encourage an autonomous schedule is to create independent working groups. Here, team members and managers discuss the progress and the upcoming goals they want to achieve. They could talk about the allocation of resources and the challenges the team members faced while undertaking past projects. Conducting such group sessions can help your team develop solutions and delegate responsibilities to the right employees.

Keep an active style of communication

Try to keep communication channels between team members open before, during and after each project. Although your colleagues have full control over their assignments, having your support can help resolve issues faster. Consider sharing an excel spreadsheet recording their tasks and performance indicators so your team members can evaluate their progress. You may also offer aid through meetings or online chat groups if your team members need additional advice or expertise.

Related: How to Become an Effective Communicator (Plus Tips)

Offer the flexibility to experiment

Aim to maintain transparency within the organisation and acknowledge that experimenting is a part of autonomous work. You may encourage experimenting by promoting innovative thinking, offering advanced training, minimising bureaucracy, rewarding achievements and allowing participation in regular meetings. For example, you may congratulate your team members for doing a great job on a particular task or project. Alternatively, you can offer them insightful feedback to improve in the future. Taking these actions helps to build employees' confidence in using their own initiative.

Flexibility also promotes problem-solving skills and stimulates faster growth. After each project, you may also organise a meeting with the team to discuss and document the strategies each person used and the resolutions they applied, and review various outcomes.

Related: What Is Workplace Flexibility and How Can It Benefit You?

Consider remote work

Allowing your team to work from home can help you start an autonomous work environment. As a result, team members may work apart from their managers, giving them a greater sense of flexibility to conduct daily tasks. For example, you may ask a content writer to write six articles per week on their own schedule as long as they meet the deadlines. This strengthens their time management skills and leads to higher quality work.

Related: Everything You Should Know About Working From Home

Measuring the efficiency of autonomous working

You can measure the progress of autonomous team members by setting helpful content management systems (CMS) and organising regular meetings. Try to keep meetings informal to encourage your team to open up about their progress, any challenges they may face and guidance they may require.

You can also carry out surveys at regular intervals to establish each person's progress and how they feel about their upcoming tasks. This information can help you delegate tasks according to each employee's strengths. It can also highlight areas that need improving. For example, a team member may want to improve their time management. You can ask that person to provide a daily update of their progress. As a result, the employee feels more motivated and completes a higher level of work.


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