Most people who are working a salaried job will agree. The way companies still do business sometimes seems completely outdated at times. It can be seen in strict leave policies with no flexibility or exceptions. Working times that are always, and that means always, pre-set. Working longer is possible but will be by definition, unpaid. The whole foundation of classical working structures revolves around the idea that there is a big building, known as ‘work,’ that you will have to travel to 5 out of 7 days a week.
In this big building, you will produce and add value to whatever the business is producing. Having everyone together in one space will allow supervisors to oversee the work and intervene when needed. You would have one to two breaks a day where you can consume your home-brought lunch, and at a specific time in the day the metaphorical bell would signal the end of the day.
Rinse repeat for the weekdays and continue until decades into your life.
This is the notion of ‘work’ for quite some time, which, in a historical context, is entirely logical. When making a tangible product, either conveyor belt production or not, you need to be physically present in the ‘work’ building to be able to participate. Rarely would one person make the full product end-to-end. In most cases, a person would be a link in the chain. This is also the case for intangible products.
Take a company that sells insurance, for example. You will have salesperson signing customers up for the service, then there is administration who will need to file the paperwork correctly, you’ll have the underwriters who assess the risk and the actuaries who deal with setting the premiums to be paid. For those people to work together well, traditionally speaking, they would have to sit in the same building to make the customer experience as streamlined as possible.
But times have changed. Not only have specific jobs themselves altered but also the context in which employment is now defined and how jobs & careers fit (or don’t fit at all) with people’s lives. If you take into account these things, it’s hard to imagine the classical notion of ‘work’ staying the same. This shift is slowly, but unmistakably happening right now. As the traditional ‘work’ pattern and construct are crumbling, we see that work is more and more being designed around people’s lives and not the other way around.
One of the main drivers would be that human employment is changing in most Western societies. With production work no longer being competitive in a global economy and shifting to the likes of Eastern Asia and India, production jobs are simply drying out. The only two choices left are the service industry (dependent on the disposable income of households) and professional services. In turn, especially in professional services, times are changing rapidly as well. Extreme digitization of services has meant that the minimum of IT literacy required to do a job has gone from basic word-processing to being able to grasp IT concepts that are more significantly advanced than ever before. The era of learning a trade and being employed by the same trade is becoming less common every day. That’s why people continuously need to re-skill and re-train.
Also, the circumstances of people themselves have changed. Younger people seem to be having a tougher time climbing the ranks within corporations. Starting jobs pay the minimum, forcing people to get a second or third job. The concept of zero-hours contracts can only be seen as something of these times. People are having kids at a later age, and having kids is genuinely seen as a luxury some people can’t afford.
The increased uncertainty, combined with the increased demands and pressures on employees, it has become clear that the give and take between employers and employees has become a hot topic, especially when it concerns a highly qualified and effective employee. Companies understand now that just offering a salary is not enough, there needs to be attractive secondary perks to the work to be able to get and retain the best employees.
This means being able to offer flexible and tailor-made working schedules, for example. An employee is willing to go above and beyond if the company will go above and beyond to accommodate the employee. And this is by no means doing the unreasonable. It’s about offering overtime work that, instead of being paid out, is paid out as time in lieu. Or using apps to easily manage your team’s work schedule. Setting up infrastructures in working processes are essential to offer flexibility and agility employees sorely need. Every high-performing company knows this, it’s all about the employees. Take care of them, and they will take care of the company.