Work Is Changing

Work is changing. Technology is disrupting business. The social contract between employer and employee is under strain. But are such developments good or bad?

Worst, rest and play

The idea of working eight hours a day, sleeping eight hours a day and relaxing eight hours a day was thought to be a productive use of time.

That, of course, was many years ago and things have changed. But how we work is going through more upheaval than ever before.

Many jobs today lend themselves to shorter and more creative periods of activity and so employers are structuring the workplace differently. The idea is to provide people with challenging work that provides a return for both worker and employer.

In recent years the growth of flexible working has increased, which raises concerns about the future of the traditional full-time job. Flexible working suits some people. It allows them to stay in the workforce or return to work while balancing life outside work.

Legislation too is changing, albeit at a slow pace, as workers’ rights are captured in new arrangements. But they are often not as well protected as with traditional employer-employee contracts.

Changes in working practices also have an effect on government budgets, as surges in self-employment reduce the amount of tax collected and available for education and health.

Work has always conferred more benefits than simply financial. It provides a sense of purpose and has a positive effect on physical and mental health. And even with current changes it will continue to play an important role in people’s lives. But there are a number of things that need to be addressed. For instance:

  • employers have to find the right balance between full-time and part-time staffing arrangements
  • working full-time or less than full-time, temporary or permanent, employee or contractor should all be equally fair to employer and employee
  • technology, in all its forms, must be embraced which means workers at all levels have to constantly learn and update their skills
  • government needs to ensure the taxation system is flexible enough to allow and encourage new types of contracts and working arrangements
  • new working practices have to be given the same status, rights and protections as more traditional working practices
  • clear lines of communication need to be agreed to differentiate between what constitutes an internal employee and an external contractor
  • good and safe working practices, regardless of the nature of the work, must be embraced by all employers in all sectors
  • work should always provide a progression route out of poverty and be linked to the education and skills development of the person
  • the nature of future work should be explored to avoid shortages of people in areas of high demand
  • the concept of retirement should be reviewed to allow older workers to remain in, or return to, the workplace

So, technology is changing the workplace and the disruption will continue as workers, employers and governments are forced to move fast to keep up.