The world of work is changing and it’s time to get ready

hfx MD and Agile Working Event speaker, Nick Whitely, looks at how time is a precious commodity in the changing world of work.



There’s a lot of discussion in the business and HR press at the moment about the changing workplace and how different things look for those in employment today – and in particular the opportunities for Millennials as they embark on their working careers. The traditional outlook of working 9 to 5, for thirty or forty years for the same company, retiring relatively early at the age of 55 has come to an end. Today people are expecting to work longer, benefiting from better health and arguably improved standards of living, but also having to work until much later in life.


Changing times demand an agile workforce


What this new world has brought is a different attitude to work. Reports claim that employees today want work to fit around their life, they do not live to work, as has been in previous generations. Acknowledging that the working life will be longer, many people in current generations are asking for reduced or flexible hours, in order to pursue other pass times or passions alongside the demands of a paying job.

Whether spending time with family, enjoying hobbies and sport or undertaking further study, work is no longer the priority. In contrast, it been reported that while ‘baby boomers’ are extremely hardworking and motivated by position, perks and prestige, they also believe in ‘face-time’ in the office and have not embraced flexible working in the same way as their younger peers.

Add to the mix the so called ‘sandwich’ generation, people who are finding that they are working while juggling looking after children, or the care of an older parent or relative, and today’s work paradigm presents very different challenges for companies.


Time is a precious commodity


In the past work schedules were designed to meet business requirements and shift patterns that included night work or weekend working were often compensated at higher rates of pay to attract staff to fill those difficult, less popular shifts.

However, this meant that staff may have been working at times least suited to their personal preference or their best performance, such that overtime and working unsocial hours became a costly way of keeping a business going. It also worked on the assumption that those particular shifts were undesirable, whereas in fact the opposite may have been the case. Employers may, therefore, have been paying an unnecessary premium to fill those shifts.

What we have learnt over the years is that salary is no longer the key motivator for many people. Time is more highly valued. Asked about the best time to work, some staff might request an early start with an earlier finish, maybe to accommodate school hours. Alternatively, night birds may be happier with a later start, preferring to work later into the evening.

Every person values their time in a different way, according to the priorities in their life, and the successful company is the one that can adopt a flexible approach that accommodates these different requirements.


A win-win for business and staff


If a business can match its own ‘valuable’ times that it requires staff to be working with patterns that suit employees, it is a win-win. With flexible working – however that may look – individuals also achieve a work life balance and are more committed and motivated as a result.

The good news is that businesses are adapting to meet these new challenges and there are technologies available to help them become more agile. Time and Attendance systems used to be a way of managing hours for traditional workforces – for factories, retail outlets and the public sector. Today we have HR systems that have been developed to enable companies to manage flexible working, not just capturing working hours, but to create shift patterns that marry up staff expertise and choice with the needs of the business.

Looking to the future of work, businesses that adopt this approach will help individuals to embrace a working life that may extend longer, but one where the balance will be different. With fewer people being in a position to retire early, their priorities will change to balance their working life with other commitments and lifestyle.

If you haven’t already, perhaps your business should be asking the question – are we ready to meet these new challenges?