Why people prefer freedom to stability
15 April 2019
Freelance writer Sara Benaissa explores why people prefer freedom to stability in the modern working world. Sara owns Fraiche Ink and is part of the colony community, she creates genuine and thought-provoking content for a variety of online and print mediums.
Despite freelancers and business owners reporting more stress, lower wages and more working hours, studies and polls keep on proving that they are more satisfied with their jobs than employed people. For example, a recent study revealed that transitioning from employee to self-employed boosted people’s overall life satisfaction for as long as two years after the move.
How can that be when freelancers report more stress, less sick leave and higher work hours? Simple, it’s because they have more freedom.
People mistakenly think that happiness comes solely from stability and a good wage, which is of course part of it, but without freedom and the feeling of controlling your own destiny, those pay slips start to feel very stale.
Free as a bird
And although there are people who do prefer stability over anything else, most people feel like it’s not enough. And this isn’t a millennial or a freelance thing. People no longer want the classic 9-5 office job anymore; they want more flexibility and they don’t want to be told when and where they should work.
I can hear some business owners already wriggling in their office chairs trying not to shout about profit margins or employee presence, but the facts actually show when you give employees more freedom you grow and become more productive as a business because you put that trust back to the people that work for you.
An LRN study found that companies who give their employees more freedom were 10-20 times more likely to outperform companies with low freedom scores. In fact there’s even a proper scientific theory attached, called the self-determination theory, which shows that if you allow people more freedom they will feel more motivated and produce better results.
It makes sense really, us humans were never meant to spend our entire day sat behind the same desk and screen while someone watches our every move for upwards of 30 years. We work best when we are challenged, allowed to run free and when our routines are shaken up. Why? Well if you look right back it fits in with our survival instincts, because if we didn’t adapt to constantly changing surroundings, we’d very quickly be a predator’s light lunch.
Let’s talk tech
And we’ve always needed that freedom. We didn’t change our natures during the 20th century, what was instead happening is that we had to work that way to get where we are now. The industrial revolution needed man power, but what we need now is brain power.
People are slowly waking up to this fact and are no longer afraid to tell their bosses what they need. This is largely thanks to social media where our voices are now megaphones and where we can see other people who feel the same way.Our voice isn’t a lone opinion anymore, but part of an interlinked mindset spread across global networks.
Robotics and automation are also bounding around the corner and experts predict that they are going to complete turn our working habits inside out. And although this is a very bleak prospect for those people whose jobs may be on the line, it’s also an opportunity to rethink how we work because machines will disrupt and reinvent our current way of working whether we like it or not.
What we have control over is deciding how automation changes our role in the workplace. Machines will take over the manual and administrative tasks that have filled up our offices and factories of old, so the only thing actually left is to use our brains for what they were designed to do and what machines so far can’t do.
Are you ready for a brand-new beat?
In fact, it’s exactly the right time go back to what makes us human, so we understand what makes us tick and implement that into our working lives. When we work out how to use our autonomous natures, we won’t feel like we are being replaced by machines anymore. We will instead let them do the boring and unfulfilling jobs so we have time to do what we do best – think, create and invent.
And I’m not talking just about digital creatives, this should span every demographic and economic reality. And although this is entirely possible, realistically our education systems aren’t prepared for such a huge working shift and society needs to wake up and start to seriously adapt so future generations aren’t left in the void.
This new gleaming working age is also why so many companies are now listening to what their employees actually need to work at their best. They know that their employees will have a much more important role in how future businesses are shaped rather than just helping them tick along. The future of work will be put back into employee hands because they will be trusted to have full responsibility over their role which will include the freedom to dream up better ideas.
A good example is Gerson Lehrman Group’s New York headquarters, which doesn’t have set work areas, lets their engineers choose their own projects and engage directly with businesses without project managers. Other innovative business owners are also crowd sourcing ideas from their employees, so they become integral parts of company strategy and not just cogs in the wheel.
If freelancers had a motto it would be ‘Freedom above all’. So freelancers and remote workers are naturally already riding the flexible working wave because they can shape their daily working lives and careers however they want.
And this global and flexible work community has single-handedly made the idea of project-based instead of time-based work a more lucrative way of working. It is now more and more accepted that you no longer need to be in an office or even online during certain hours if you get the projects you are working on done and work with other colleagues when necessary. The point is to produce and not to be present, to be flexible and work according to specific project requirements. Again, this is about putting trust back with the individual, and when you do that, watch how they fly.
Huge movements are also springing up because of this global and flexible workforce, such as the human cloud where websites match employers with freelancers and create global pools of freelancers working from their laptops via the cloud. This movement has actually got some experts calling remote workers ‘the precariat’ or the emerging global class with no financial security or job stability.
And that’s the flipside of all-encompassing freedom, the lack of security it can bring. Perhaps in the future we’ll be able to use our newly found flexible working environments to also ensure stability and financial security, so we have the fulfilling and comfortable job we all so obviously need.
You can find more of Sara's work at www.fraicheink.com.
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