Over the years that I’ve been working, work has changed tremendously. I am certain that it will look completely different 20 years from what it looks like today.
My grandparents and parents had a “job for the rest of their lives”. The boundaries between the activities that could be called skilled or unskilled, professional or craftman, contractor, freelance, or employed are becoming more blurred. American millennial workers are three times more likely than older generations to have had their jobs changed in the last year. Research also indicates that millennial workers are less likely than older generations to feel a sense of loyalty or attachment towards the companies they work for and more likely “disengaged,” from their employers, which encourages them to look elsewhere for opportunities.
Add to that the ” great retirement” phenomenon, which is a trend where one fifth of workers are likely to quit their employer within the next twelve months, and it becomes clear that organizations face unprecedented challenges when it comes to keeping key employees and talent.
These changes have elicited mixed reactions and responses. We’ve seen bank CEOs and senior government officials issue strong warnings about how new-fangled ideas such as working remotely can harm both career prospects and business metrics.
This is a sign that the bosses are unwilling to give up their control over employees’ time. Everyone must be present during business hours.
Is it possible to be more productive when working from home? Studies to the question have had mixed results . But what is clear is that we are happier when given the option.
Virgin Money is an example of a company taking a proactive approach in managing the changing work landscape. They launched A Life More Virgin at the beginning of this year. It is described as “a values-driven approach to flexible work.”
All employees, including front-line staff and customers, have the option to work remotely at the very least part of the time. This policy includes adopting a “locationless” policy for hiring. Staff have greater control over where and when they work. The company gives an example of a store worker who travels to visit their child on weekends. Employee was able request to work in the closest store to their child on Fridays. This meant that they were able to spend less time driving after work to visit the child.
After conducting a thorough survey, the company developed the policy shift. It also sought input from its entire workforce and 3,000 members of public. In a world where leaders and the csuite are used to creating initiatives based on their ideas, this is refreshing.
It has required infrastructure improvements to Virgin Money’s offices, branches and facilities. Some commercial properties were shuttered, while others were converted into collaborative workspaces. They have been remodeled to adapt to new working methods, such as remote workers who require hub facilities instead of permanent workspaces.
The initiative also offers workers the opportunity to take up to five “wellbeing day” during a single year. The four-day week is another example of this practice encouraging people to have more control over their work and personal lives.
This is currently being tested in several countries including the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 60 companies will adopt the new schedule this year, which is expected to last from June through December. The trial is being run as a scientific experiment in collaboration with Cambridge, Oxford, and Boston College. Participants will receive the same salary as if they had been working five days a week. They will also not be required to work more than four hours each day. The effects of the trial on productivity and employee happiness will be measured empirically. This trial will help answer questions that governments and businesses have been asking since the Covid-19 epidemic.
There are many benefits to reducing the hours employees work, whether at home or in an office. These include improving personal well-being and preventing burnout.
This could allow people to reconnect with their local environment – the areas, villages, and suburbs they call home – instead of just treating them as their place to sleep. This could help to revitalize local economies as well as encourage us to spend more time interacting with local governance and democracy.
This approach comes with its own challenges. Some people have expressed concern that flexible work arrangements can make it more difficult to be social and productive. Employers would be wrong to think that employees who don’t have to commute to work every day should “repay” their benefits by being available 24/7. It is unlikely that anyone will have a better work/life balance if they replace their office-bound lives with some type of “always-on activity.”
Research is ongoing to determine the mental Health implications many of today’s modern working practices, such as working remotely. These may differ depending on each person’s personal circumstances.
It is clear, however, that change is necessary and long overdue. However it also has the potential for a multitude of benefits. The success of the changes will only be realized if they are properly managed and implemented with a clear understanding of the goals and clear communication between the employees and employers.
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