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The Evolution of Work

Updated: Nov 5, 2018

The 40-hour, 5-day work week, spent in a formal office environment, is remnant of a different time. Thankfully, technology is enabling us to rewrite these outdated rules, yet many businesses are failing to adapt and take advantage of the wonderful opportunity it presents.

Employees are increasingly having to juggle work commitments with busy lives. Does career progression have to come as a result of neglecting personal commitments?

Traditionally, with company growth comes higher overheads, which ultimately drives up prices. Does this really have to be the case?

In difficult economic climates, many companies resort to undertaking a rationalisation process which, more often than not, results in employees being retrenched. But is this really the best solution?

When looking at ways to keep prices competitive as a company grows, to reduce overheads during difficult times, or to increase employee motivation, it is worth embracing technology and taking full advantage of the doors it has opened for us.

Are offices a thing of the past?

Is the big fancy office, with expensive furniture and exorbitant rent really required in order for your employees to perform their jobs, or could your need to police your employees be the real reason why you insist they come in to the office every day? If you don’t trust your employees you may be too controlling, or you may have the wrong people.

We cannot ignore, at least for now, that there are positions that will require an employee to be physically present at an office or site. However, with laptops, easy access to fast internet, emails, cloud-based servers, various internet-based solutions, and video-conferencing facilities, there are many office-based roles where presence at an office has little to no effect on the job that needs to be done. In these instances, it seems crazy to expect an employee to waste time travelling to and from an office in peak hour traffic, only to arrive and face distractions of the in-office environment, when the work can be done (often more effectively) remotely.

Allowing employees to work remotely not only reduces overheads, but compelling research, by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom, found that working remotely increases productivity, overall work hours, and employee satisfaction.

Out with the 8 to 5 and in with flexi-hours?

There is little doubt that employees who have a good work-life balance, are happier and ultimately more productive. A parent who is able to be present at their child’s sports days and concerts, a sports enthusiast who is able to have time to put in those training hours, or an employee who has to collect a monthly grant without losing a day’s annual leave will be happier because of it, and a happy employee is a more loyal and productive employee.

When an employer is a clock-watcher, so is the employee. Research suggests that employees who work flexi-hours or remotely, more often than not end up working more hours. Conversely, if an employer enforces a strict 8 to 5 working day with no flexibility, you can be sure that the moment that clock strikes 5 the employee is out the door without blinking an eye, whether or not there is a deadline looming.

Also, flexible working hours, allows employees to take a break when their energy flags and to complete their work at a time when they know they are the most productive – even if this is late at night.

The idea that every person works at the same speed and will get through their job tasks in precisely 8-hours a day, seems ludicrous. An employee’s performance should not be measured by how many hours they work, but rather on whether they are meeting their set KPI’s or not. With correct appraisal processes in place, and goal-based performance targets set, a company doesn’t have to rely on trust alone, as it all comes down to the employee’s performance – regardless of where they are or how many hours they work.

Is change inevitable?

Still not sold on flexible work hours and remote working? According to a study by Bentley University, 77% of Millennials say that flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age. As the Millennial generation becomes the majority, we can expect flexi-time and working remotely to become a common workplace norm rather than the exception.

Sub-contracting, outsourcing, freelancers

Gigged by Sarah Kessler gives great insight into the gig economy.

The gig economy (a labour market characterised by freelance, flexible, on-demand work where workers are paid for each gig they do) is booming and another factor changing the workplace environment. A quick Google search will bring up a variety of virtual assistants who will take care of your business admin, and freelance marketplaces such as Fiverr where you can hire designers, copywriters, video editors and more.

While some may argue that the gig economy is just another way for companies to take advantage of the workforce, others believe it is an opportunity for individuals to become entrepreneurs and to easily start their own professional, freelance business.

Companies can now procure the services of a professional, at highly-affordable rates as and when needed, saving on salary and associated overhead costs.

Is video-conferencing the new face to face?

Video-Conferencing allows meetings to occur virtually, simultaneously across multiple locations and time zones, rendering long distance travel to visit clients, suppliers or employees almost completely unnecessary. Best of all, is that companies don’t necessarily have to outlay huge costs to set-up the facilities and can make use of numerous online platforms. This saves companies time and money.

Business owners need to take heed of the changing work environment and work force, or risk being like Kodak who failed to properly grasp the significance of technological transition which ultimately lead to their downfall.

Written by Co-Pilot Director and HR Specialist, Lindy-Leigh Swales

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