A BBC News video discussing trends in the workplace features a hub in New York created specifically to serve the needs of freelancers. It states ‘the old model of doing work where you work someplace for 35 years and then you retire is changing. The economy is actually encouraging folks to figure out ways in which they can bring their own entrepreneurship to light.’
What is behind this development? How does it impact “traditional” employment? We help reveal the new trends in the workplace and look at how changes demand a fresh look at performance improvement, reward and recognition for employees, channel partners and other stakeholders.
Firstly, companies are having to adapt to emerging social and financial pressures. This includes demands for greater flexibility in the hours worked, remote working and shorter working weeks. A 4-day week has recently been introduced by several major employers in the UK, including The Wellcome Trust (on a trial basis) and Advice Direct Scotland. The salaries remain the same in exchange for longer hours on the days worked. More time with family and to spend on leisure activities are being hailed as improvements in work-life balance. These new trends in the workplace show early signs of improvement in productivity.
Key highlights from BBC report showing trends in the workplace
• 40% of New York workers freelanced in 2018
• Many freelancers need a “neutral” working space nearer to the market than their home
• 56.7 million Americans freelanced in 2018
• Freelancers use the hub to work, attend training classes and network with others
• 61% of these freelancers say this is their choice, although it can be “isolating”
• Freelancers face the personal challenge of winning and retaining customers
• There is financial uncertainty and earnings can be lower than in equivalent permanent jobs
• Nevertheless, these freelancers say they sleep better and are less stressed
Lessons to be learned
There are lessons to be learned for employers that reflect these statements. It is more expensive to have someone on the payroll than to employ them only when needed. The new gig economy is growing. A pool of self-employed people are now available who only get paid per task or project and currently attract fewer direct overheads. That is gradually changing as new employment protection laws catch up with the changing jobs market, but it will continue to make financial sense in a number of business sectors.
The appeal of being self-employed includes reduced stress, which should ring alarm bells for HR teams and senior managers. In this new age of enlightenment, there is a growing focus on health and wellbeing in the workplace. Employers are under increasing pressure to adopt a caring and protective approach to their employees as well as towards their suppliers and channel partners.
Employees on the company payroll can feel isolated too or simply ignored by their employers. Performance can decline. There must be appropriate support systems within the organisation to recognise and address concerns or problems. The absence of continuous professional development or equivalent training provided by the employer can result in employees feeling undervalued or becoming frustrated at lack of progress and career opportunity. A focus by business leaders on structured motivation strategies will always produce positive outcomes for the organisation and its people. Attracting and retaining the best people has to be a vital factor in the success of any organisation.
Innovation is key
Freelancers must be innovative and imaginative, as well as resilient, if they are to survive. There is evidence that many of them compromise their earnings potential in exchange for “freedom” and less stress. Those same motivations could undermine the commitment and contribution of salaried employees. Employers must understand how these trends in the workplace can be impactful but also guard against complacency and familiarity eroding productivity.
It is essential to keep work fresh and stimulating. Offering incentives for achieving and exceeding performance targets is a proven way of sustaining profitability and market share. Programmes giving recognition and rewards to high performing teams and individuals, if managed properly, are a powerful business management solution.
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