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Autonomy at Work

Autonomy—the freedom and the opportunity to make self-determined choices—is one of six fundamental human needs that motivate us. Research shows that autonomy at work correlates with greater commitment, creativity, and job satisfaction for people, as well as improved attraction and retention rates and productivity levels for organizations. We help organizations realize these benefits by determining the right variety of settings, and encouraging individuals and teams to test and explore how, when, and where they can work to achieve the best results. As part of our ongoing pursuit of human-centered workplace design, Herman Miller’s Living Office® helps organizations and their design partners create environments that support—rather than control—people and their work. Proprietary studies conducted with our Living Office Research Partners1 show how forward-looking companies are using workplace design to
maximize freedom of choice and prosperity

Provide Purposeful Settings

An environment that offers people choices in where they work clearly supports the need for autonomy. But purposeful selfdirection requires a variety of purposeful settings aligned with the unique character and activities of an organization and its people. Living Office Research Partners identify and prioritize essential traits and activities for support and then allocate space accordingly. They use meaningful landmarks and planned adjacencies between workgroups to differentiate settings and guide individuals to the spaces that best suit specific tasks and work styles. Given these design considerations, post-move studies of our Living Office Research Partners found a relative percentage increase of 100 percent in employee agreement with the statement, “My work team and I have the ability to choose where we work in our workplace.”

Offer Variety in Tools, Posture, Mood

Two different people performing the same task may have very different ideas about the best way to accomplish it. A Living Office workplace accommodates diverse preferences by offering support for a variety of tools and postures. Our Research Partners make provisions for connecting and charging various types and quantities of personal technology. They also ensure that analog tools like whiteboards and tackable surfaces, as well as places to display work-in-progress and symbolic artifacts, are available. Accommodations for different postural preferences and choices of formal or casual seating arrangements contribute to a sense of autonomy, as do flexible, mobile furnishings that people can position themselves. Landscapes that offer sensory variation let people choose settings that stimulate or calm, depending on changing moods and task requirements.

Accommodate Flexible Schedules and Contingent Workers

Flexible work schedules, a growing number of permanent part-time employees, and a rapidly expanding contingent workforce of contractors, consultants, and temps requires an agile and dynamic workplace that can accommodate fluctuating numbers of workers on a day-to-day basis. Our Living Office Research Partners use well-appointed shared work points to provide equitable accommodations for both full-time staff and contingent workers so that everyone feels valued and integral to the team. Centrally located Plaza Settings that offer enticing amenities and comfortable and convenient meeting and work locations encourage information exchange and camaraderie at all hours of the day.

Plan for Prosperity

When people have choices about how, where, and when they accomplish their work activities and goals, they are more likely to feel motivated and empowered to perform their best. Organizations that design their work environments to support autonomy in alignment with business goals and values are poised for ongoing success. This adds up to prosperity at the broadest and most personal levels. If you’d like to explore how Living Office can work for your organization and your people, visit or contact Widmer to find out how we can help your business work to their best ability.