We all know the standard working hours in corporate America are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., hence the phrase “9-to-5.” But expansion stage companies are not “corporate America” — they are the innovative newcomers that break down barriers and change the way things are done. So when it comes to employee productivity, that workday model might not be your best option.

Employee productivity

In an article on Inc.com, Ilya Pozin explains that 9-to-5 hours came out of the manufacturing era, when time clocks were the best way to measure an employee’s productivity on the line. But times have changed and time in the chair is no longer an accurate measure of productivity. In fact, with the myriad distractions (see: Internet browsing) that often distract employees that aren’t in the mood to work, another employee productivity model is becoming increasingly effective: autonomy.

In my opinion, it’s the key to getting the most out of each of your employees.

The essence of autonomy is that employees should be treated as adults and allowed to work in the way that they will be most productive. As long as they complete a project successfully and on time, the journey shouldn’t matter as much as the end result. If they aren’t producing, of course, then it’s a different story, and you may want to rethink who you are employing, rather than the model you use to foster employee productivity.

Not sure how to create autonomy? While every office is different and some tactics will work better than others at your company, here are some tips to help you give your employees the power, flexibility, and motivation to get their work done:

Flexible Hours

Maybe you have some early birds that are most productive early in the morning. If they want to come in at 7 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m., then let them. On the other side, maybe you have some night owls that would be more productive if they could sleep in a little later. If they want to work from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., then they should be able to.

Of course, flexible hours need to factor in any meetings or inter-office dependencies, so think about implementing a policy where everyone must be in the office between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. All other hours are up to them (or something along those lines). This way you can have all of your meetings during the time that everyone is there, but still allow your employees the flexibility of working when they will be more productive.

Remote Work

Now, I am not someone that can work from home. There are too many distractions and it requires a completely different mindset. But I do know that there are people that work better from home without the numerous distractions that offices often present. Allowing your employees the option to work from home one day a week may make a big difference.

No Break Regulation

Don’t make your employees ask for permission to take a break. Sometimes people just need to go for a walk around the block to clear their head. Whether it’s one or five times a day shouldn’t matter as long as they are getting their work done and projects are being completed on schedule.

No Internet Restrictions

Similar to my point about breaks, it’s not always a bad thing for your employees to think about something else for a few minutes before going back to their work with a refreshed mind. If that means your employees want to take 10 minutes to browse RueLaLa, Facebook, or MSNBC, then so be it. That 10 minutes spent focusing on something else will probably make their next hour focused on work much more productive.

In the end, autonomy and employee productivity both boil down to hiring the right people. If you hire employees that are hard-working and trustworthy, then you should feel comfortable giving them the freedom to complete their work in the way they think is best. This will allow each employee to tailor their day around what will make them more productive, and you’ll have a well-performing, happy team as a result.

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photo: Sean MacEntee