To say that Covid-19 is causing challenges to our companies is a massive understatement. But there is a unique opportunity granted by having employees working remotely and re-organizing work to keep performance levels high. The question is: Is your company seizing it?

Following a period of remote working for many, we are now structuring our workforce long-term to adapt to deconfinement strategies and directions to keep us safe. No matter the evolution of our current situation, any long-term viable strategy has to involve efforts to keep knowledge workers productive and driving business results at a distance. 

Whether your company is fighting for survival or finds itself on steady ground, this can be a crucial time for your company to demonstrate that you focus both on financial outcomes and also on improving your employees' performance and well-being. Being forced to rethink how to organize work can help you take big steps in creating sustainable and productive working environments. This requires looking at employees’ needs on both individual and team levels and how adhering to these needs can lead to your company performing better as a whole.

A growing body of research identifies needs that drive and sustain employees and provide strategies for how they can be met. Needs of feeling Purpose, Psychological Safety, Belonging, Competence, and Mastery in the workplace are among the most important. But in the context of remote work that we have been experiencing, let’s shine the light on one need that holds great opportunity: the need for Autonomy. 

An employee who has autonomy expresses a sense of agency and control over how to complete tasks and structure the day. Research shows that when employees experience autonomy, their productivity and quality of work improves, and their overall well-being is enhanced. As employees are working from home, and not having to coordinate or collocate with other team members in a physical space, they are inherently freer to decide how to go about their workday. As a company leader or team manager, you can tap into this. Start by asking yourself if you are taking a few simple actions to support the autonomy of your people to work more effectively individually and in teams, even as they work at a distance.

  • Am I providing my people with choice and allowing them to be involved in the decision-making process of how and when to complete a task?
  • Am I providing a meaningful reason for why to undertake a specific task?
  • Am I outspokenly supporting self-initiation and that my team share ideas of how to do things more efficiently?
  • Am I providing the resources for team members to operate efficiently, even when not sitting next to each other or doing the same thing at the same time?
  • Am I focusing on the quality of output and delivery by deadlines, rather than the number of hours logged by the employee in front of the screen?


For the employee, to be genuinely asked and involved in a decision-making process gives a feeling of being able to influence the outcome. That their contribution is valued and needed. As a manager, it is vital to inspire these feelings while creating a shared understanding of the expected outcome so everyone pulls in the same direction. What you need are engaged employees who are not only satisfied with their job, but who are always looking for ways to do better and improve their work towards the business goals, and maybe even saving the business at this point. To have that, you need to focus on what is produced and the quality of the output, and trust that your employees deliver on-time. And you can take steps towards achieving this by being a leader who knows how to drive results by adhering to the need for autonomy. 

Most companies are only scratching the surface on how to operationalize and make more efficient use of our new circumstances. As mentioned above, behavioral insights offer many approaches on how to tap into the power of other human needs in the workplace, such as the need for Purpose, Psychological Safety, Belonging, Competence & Mastery. 

Now is a great time to develop processes to cater to those needs and drive business results through it. Now is a great time to show care for your employees’ well-being and give them tools to boost their performance. Now is a great time to further develop your company's Sustainable Leadership. 

Have a great and impactful week!

Carolina Appel
Employee Engagement Consultant & Instructor at CATÓLICA-LISBON 

This article refers to edition #37 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter.
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