Working life

Working life is being impacted by a complex array of forces such as "one size does not fit all". This has resulted in different perceptions and aspirations that include

"... - the global generation that expects to work anywhere in the world at any time;

- the mobile mercenaries - free agents who sell their skills to the highest bidder;

- the "career step" employees who wants opportunities, not continuity, and who advance their own career interests, not necessarily the success of their employers;

- the portfolio, self-determined careerists who exit the corporate world for a collection of paid endeavours that interest them;

- the "wisdom workers" who are no longer in full-time roles but keep their hand in short-term assignments and mentoring projects, drawing on the benefits of wide networks of contacts and skills..."

Australian Business Foundation, 2007

Younger staff are now more interested in increasing their employability, via widening and upgrading skills, than in loyalty to any particular organisation. This suggests that employees now want more than salary packages. Furthermore, there is evidence which indicates that alignment of personal and organisational ethics and values are very important in attracting and keeping staff.

As job security is no longer part of the employment deal, more and more staff (particular the younger workers) want to develop portable skills that they can take to the next job. Employees are identifying staff education as an important differentiator between employees, so training and development is becoming a part of employment packages. The most common topics for training and development are leadership, project management, negotiation skills, marketing, finance, strategy, staff coaching and E-commerce. In other words, they are looking to upgrade their personal portfolios as part of their current jobs in an organisation, ie

"...you pay, but we don't always stay..."

Helen Trinca, 2001

Large and/or well established organisations are no longer safe havens for employment as their business models are under threat from a more vibrant, innovative economy, ie social media, which needs a larger base of skills people who can commercialise ideas, develop new markets and ventures. More and more companies are shedding management layers and outsourcing more jobs including professional roles.
Also technological change is making it faster and cheaper to start a new venture.

Increasing emphasis on the concept of portfolio careers, ie

Younger people are being prepared to have a number of different jobs in their lifetimes and aree being groomed to be more flexible in their approach to their working lives. It is estimated that the average person starting work now in USA will have more than 6 different careers in their lifetime and in high demand-areas people are only staying for a couple of years. This compares with people in the 1960s who, on average, stayed with one employer for around 12 years, and when changing jobs too frequently was "frowned upon".

Furthermore, the ageing of the population (over the next four decades, the proportion of Australian population over 65 will double to be around 25%) and a greater desire for work-life balance are both increasing the pressure for more career changes. Sometimes a better way to understand the work-life balance isin the terms of acknowledged trade-offs, ie if you are going to spend more time with your family, other activities, such as work and/or leisure activities, etc, will suffer.

Work/life balance can be regarded as a misnomer as it can refer to many workplace issues including flexible work practices, such as job sharing, telecommuting, part-time options and programs for working parents, mature age workers and programs enabling corporate volunteerism, as well as the need to manage home and work responsibilities. There is a need for people to be able to move between work, family and retirement while organisational and work structures need to change to make this viable. Furthermore,

"...managing work and personal life is more than simply an issue of time (which is finite); it also involves energy, and mood, which are not constrained in a way time can be......managing work and other parts of life is about how people assess and decide priorities..."

Ellen Galinsky as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2004

Remember: measuring success at the workplace is different from evaluating success in non-work areas, ie success at work is about achievement while in non-work areas it is often about caring responsibilities

People who have worked out the most suitable work-life balance for themselves are able to prioritise their life and focus on the high priority areas, especially in work. As a result, they do not waste time on low priority areas

Furthermore, there is

"...an increasing demand for emotional sustenance, intellectual satisfaction, lifestyle accommodation and control over hours and styles of management..."

Deirde Macken, 2004

More organisations are tracking the emotional, physical and intellectual health of employees with the aim of getting the appropriate fit between staff and the organisation.

"...I want it all and I wanted it now

what older workers expect what young workers expect

professional development meaningful work

flexibility in work arrangements a series of challenging jobs

leave time during week constant feedback and rewards

extended leave periods to be included in decision-making

a sociable work environment more informal hierarchies..."

Deirde Macken, 2004

The workers of this latter generation are becoming more mobile, tough and loyal to no one but themselves

At the same time, there is increasing diversity and flexibility in the workforce of any one organisation, and organisations are continually beset with paradoxes. In addition to handling different skills and disciplines, there are differences in generational, racial, ethnic, cultural, gender and religious mindsets that need to be considered. An example of the strength of a religious mindset is despite the scientific evidence to demonstrate otherwise, in a New York Times election poll (November 2014), 55% of responders believe that God created human beings in their present form

Traditionally full-time work hours have been set, eg 9 to 5, etc. Anything different was perceived as part-time work. On the other hand, there is an increasing trend to flexible working hours by many organisations. These alterations have become wide ranging and allow people to balance work-life commitments. Some popular examples include

- compressed weeks (longer hours in exchange for a day off every week or fortnight)

- working from home

- allowing split shifts

- flexible start and finish times

- allowing time for lifestyle and well-being commitments

- allowing time off for commitments like volunteer work or athletic events, etc

"...Flexibility is enabling us to leverage the good things that come out of diversity. It's really a tool that you used to be more inclusive and to allow a diverse workforce to shine..."

Dr Jesse Olsen as quoted by Erin Munro, 2017

Flexible work will change the attitudes to diversity by

- increasing focus on outcomes, not inputs (hours), in the way we work

- canvassing a broader range of views and understanding so that quality of decision-making is improved

- inducing reliance on stereotypes (like seeing domestic/cares duties as women's work)

- away from flexibility being seen as an obstacle to promotion

- promoting a more inclusive attitude to people who are different (disabled, aged, cultural, ethnic, religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc.)

An interesting example in the generational differences is a trend to "reverse mentoring" where junior staff mentor senior executives on such topics as the use of the Internet and their generational aspirations.

Since the global financial crisis (GFC) and its aftermath

- there has been an increasing trend in outsourcing. This has allowed organisations to concentrate on what they do best. As a result, more Australian workers are becoming contingents, eg contractors, consultants, temporary workers, interim executives and freelancers.

- activity-based working has increased. As office space is the second-biggest cost in most organisations, more are encouraging staff not to have a permanent desk. This is similar to the "hot desking" trialled around 10 years ago. Wireless technology has helped with staff being able to work anywhere in the building without having to plug in or re-route telephones and/or needing to book work space. This results in significant savings, eg the cost of setting up permanent workspaces. In addition to the cost savings, there are performance benefits. For example, it helps break down the "silos"; teams can come together quickly without problems of relocating computers, phones, cabinets, etc; it can accelerate decision-making and processes; it is environmentally friendly with less printing and reduced power consumption (not using PCs, etc)

In other words

"...work, in the future, will only be a verb. It is becoming a process, not a place..."

Philip Ross as quoted by Fiona Smith 2010k.

An extension of this paradigm shift is the evolution of clubs that are office-away-from-the-office or virtual office. These clubs are used by individuals who are on the move, start-up organisations that don't want to commit to long-term leases, and work teams the need a place away from headquarters

 

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