People who are free still need to set boundaries, according to psychologist Katayun Pracher-Hilander.
What is the role of freedom in today’s working world?
By definition, freedom and work are opposites. However, it’s possible to incorporate certain levels of freedom into the work environment by allowing employees to have a degree of flexibility, autonomy and room for manoeuvre. This brings a level of personal satisfaction to people, which in turn can be incentivising. On the other hand, if there’s no scope for freedom or decision-making, this has a negative impact on motivation and performance, resulting in fluctuations in output and increased levels of absenteeism.
So, the more freedom the better?
Not necessarily. The bottom line for any company is to maximise productivity, and this always ranks above employee welfare in importance, despite the impression some companies try to give. Also, if the boundaries between work and free time become too blurred, this can pose a problem for some people.
What happens if work and free time get too mingled?
If your boss calls you in the evening or at weekends, this can palpably disrupt your free time. Or if you have children and choose to work from home for some of the time, this can affect freedom in a complex way. While it can be a great relief to have more flexibility to allocate your time, it could also lead to stress because you get more work interruptions and end up juggling lots of tasks at once, which can be tiring.
So, what’s the solution to this work-life-dilemma?
As the official boundaries between work and leisure time become ever more blurred, it becomes more important for individuals to draw their own boundaries. For example, you may decide not to read emails at the weekend or the evening, or you may decide not to take on too much work. It requires discipline to set these boundaries for yourself and for others and it is often difficult because, at the end of the day, you are dependent on your sources of income, whether that’s your employer, or your clients if you are self-employed. So no, you‘re absolutely not free.
This sounds like a lot more individual responsibility.
That’s right. The more autonomously you work, the more individual responsibility you must take on. You must also have a lot of self-discipline to motivate yourself to do the work required, and not everyone has this. Equally, someone who needs a certain level of autonomy in order to feel incentivised will wither in an environment of strict rules and structures.