As we finish out the 4th of July week, I started to consider what is ‘freedom’ when it comes to the workplace. Fundamentally, it comes down to embracing our humanity at work and being able to bring our true self to work.  The organization of the future is one that must continually evolve since the environment will constantly change. The only way to successfully navigate this environment of change is to embrace your employees as humans so they can grow and evolve with the organization.

The concept of freedom at work is relatively simple. Here are some things to consider as you look at your work environment. These are challenges I have heard, as a performance coach, from client-after-client.

Once organizations embrace these concepts, engagement will increase, people will love what they do, and innovation will flourish.

What is freedom from the perspective of an employee, knowledge worker or manager?

  • I can challenge the status quo.  I have the freedom to challenge the status quo up and down the organization without fear. I can walk into my EVPs office and tell him/her my thoughts, and they will listen. Even if they disagree, they will respect me enough to hear my ideas and opinions.  My ideas do not need to be implemented, but I would like to be able to have my voice heard.
  • I can be myself.  I can bring my whole self to work –  the whole big, messy human complexity that includes everything I am – from emotions, logic, and professionalism, to commitment, passion, and creativity, and so much more. 
  • I can make a mistake.  If I make a mistake, I want to be able to learn from it.  When I am scared of making mistakes, I hide errors and will not take risks.  
  • I am paid equitably.  I am paid for the value I provide.  Period.
  • I am safe.  I need to feel safe at work. I should be free from any anxiety associated with health or bodily harm or workplace bullies. 
  • I can learn.  There are many opportunities for me to learn and grow. Don’t put me in a box.  Allow me to step up to new opportunities and projects even if I am not an expert. 
  • I can manage my time.  Time is the most precious commodity.  Freedom means giving me the autonomy to choose the place and time I work. Yes, I need to attend meetings and respond to issues, but unless there is a business imperative, allow me to work from home and in the hours that work for both me personally and the organization.
  • I do not have to be perfect.  I spend so much time at work checking, rechecking, and forcing things to be perfect.  But this comes at the cost of getting products to market quickly.  Perfection is the enemy of innovation.  
  • I can determine how my work gets done. Make sure I understand my goals and give me the right tools to succeed without micromanagement. Give me the autonomy to meet the goals and my guess is the results will surprise you.
  • To have a community at work.  Let’s treat work as a relationship versus a contract. Characteristics of a relationship include trust, acceptance, communication, support, and reciprocity. This is what we want at work.

Most of us want to come into work, love what we do, feel that we contributed to something greater than ourselves, and have meaning in what we accomplished.  This is how I define freedom at work.