Evolving from the traditional 9 to 5 work week
While everyone was hunkered down, weathering out the recession, the job market changed around us.
It’s a combination of long and short term trends. Firstly, in many countries, the overall workforce is aging steadily. Secondly, those at the younger end of the job market have, by dint of the downturn, found it harder to get the job they want – and in many cases, a job at all.
Yet we, as business leaders, need both of these groups more than ever. And that means catering for their specific needs – which, as it happens, seem to fit with a number of other trends that are driving how we go about doing business.
The pensioners are alright
Older workers often want more flexible arrangements – including the possibility of part-time work at a time that suits them. The current generation of retirees are a livelier workforce than previous generations, and they aren’t ready to retire and simply stop. But there’s also been pension erosion: often, older employees both want and need to stay active and earning cash.
From a business’ point of view, this is great. The things that a more experienced employee brings – experience, wisdom and maturity – are often difficult to replace with a school leaver or graduate. Simultaneously, older staff are often more expensive, and the opportunity to draw on their skills on a pay-as-you-go basis is attractive.
Ultimate flexibility for Generations X, Y and Z
Younger generations, too, see a huge advantage in flexible working. Portfolio careers offer flexibility to generations who will never experience the ‘jobs for life’ that Baby Boomers enjoyed. For employers, the chance to boost their roster temporarily, or as demand requires, offers lower overheads than retaining extensive full-time staff, drawing a salary regardless of whether they’re busy or not.
Flexible working tools
Finally, for full-time workers, the flexibility to choose when, where and how they work is a massive boon. Handled right, information workers in particular tend to be happier, healthier and more productive if provided the option to work remotely. Of course, this can be a divisive issue, too. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end home working for the then 14,500 employees at the company was not received well – even though it emerged that some employees had not come into work in years. While productivity may have suffered in some cases, the requirement to be physically present in the workplace seems to have helped foster engagement and productivity. It’s clear, too that there is a healthy balance to be struck between a workforce which is physically together, bouncing ideas off each other, yet which can, should be need for silent concentration or travel emerge, work remotely.
Trust is everything
In all of this, it’s clear that mutual trust and a clear understanding of what each employee brings to the overall mix is the real issue. We’re lucky enough to be living in an age where many of us – particularly knowledge workers – can choose the time and location of their working day to a greater or lesser extent. For it to work, however, we need open and honest dialogue on all sides.