I wonder what Doralee Rhodes would think of ‘modern working’. Played by Dolly Parton in the celebrated tribute to harangued office workers, she sang: “Workin’ 9 to 5, It’s all takin’ and no givin’”.
While the employee experience was pretty poor for many decades, thankfully modern working has evolved since Dolly’s hit. The experience for the average desk-worker is now about flexible hours, shared workspaces, unique perks and a greater focus on wellbeing. This time it’s the employers offering the ‘service and devotion’ in a bid to differentiate.
Coworking and hot desk spaces are springing up everywhere – including the development of the live/work environment of apartment above, office below. The choice this provides, especially for small businesses and entrepreneurs, is unprecedented but is the bubble of ‘modern working’ ready to burst or is it just getting started?
Firstly, what do we mean by ‘modern working’? It’s about providing an environment that takes into account the benefits that really matter to employees. Why? Great for brand image, staff recruitment and retention, and if shared workspace is part of this, lower overheads for the employer.
For some companies, ‘modern working’ is pretty extraordinary. We’ve all read about the free travel, lunches and relaxation areas at Google’s head offices, but what about online real estate company Zillow which ships breast milk home if mums have to work away, or travel firm Patagonia which allows mothers to take a caregiver when they’re on business trips or make use of their on-site childcare?
It’s about really knowing your audience, with the audience being your staff.
And employee wants and needs from the work environment are also evolving.
Consider findings from Deloitte’s ‘2018 Millennial Survey’ which found 43% of Millennials planned to quit their current job within two years and only 28% planned to stay in their current role for more than five years. With that amount of churn, companies really need to reassess how to keep and attract talent – and that’s more than just free doughnuts on a Friday.
Another interesting development is the rise of the ‘breadsharer’. Rather than a breadwinner, the modern working man has instead more of a focus on his spouse’s career. So firms need to do more to retain such workers. This article explores scaling back demands on total work commitment, recognising there is more to life, and how to get the most out of someone more likely to ultimately leave their job to support their wife’s career?
While these provisions are viable for large companies to offer, smaller outfits may struggle to compete. But ‘modern working’ is not just about the on-site gym and weekly massages. Small businesses are also making significant changes like using Skype and video-conferencing to avoid costly and time-consuming physical meetings, days off on birthdays, flexi-time, four-day weeks, working from home and ‘duvet days’ – an opportunity to chill-out and de-stress on top of your contracted holiday allowance.
More attention is also being paid to the efficiency of our working days and how to improve productivity without neglecting wellbeing. For example, the Pomodoro Technique. Developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, it’s a time management method named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used. It encourages people to set a time limit on a task, separated by regular break intervals. Think of it as the office equivalent of a high intensity workout – short bursts of targeted productivity, free from outside distractions, with breaks ensuring that the level of concentration never drops.
There are altruistic reasons behind this – it can be hugely beneficial for people with children or long commutes. Equally, there are sound financial benefits for companies, as home-workers use their own electricity, internet, phones, and drink their own tea and coffee. It’s mutually beneficial.
The Government’s Taylor review of modern working practices, published in 2017 and updated last year, produced seven principles, one of which stated ‘the shape and content of work and individual health and wellbeing are strongly related. For the benefit of firms, workers and the public interest we need to develop a more proactive approach to workplace health’.
Beware though – not all modern working trends are necessarily a step forward.
Take unlimited holidays – it’s the dream, right? Employees take as much leave as they want, whenever they want. Richard Branson announced it for his management team at Virgin, and other global players like Netflix have also started using the scheme.
But there’s a catch. The addendum to this deal is that the employees must take it at a time when it’s appropriate for the company, and if your workload allows you to – two things that have no guarantee of happening, especially if you work in a high-octane environment. There may never be the right time to take a holiday, so employees could end up taking less or missing out altogether, adding to stress.
Mandated holiday time may seem restrictive but it’s literally that – mandated. You will be getting a guaranteed period of time off every year, and line managers will normally ensure you use it. Unlimited holiday schemes don’t necessarily come with any of these guarantees, so perhaps sometimes it’s the better the devil you know…
The world is changing, and so is the work environment. ‘Modern working’ certainly purports to put employee focus at the heart of the working experience, and if employers want to retain and recruit top talent, the trend should continue. Communication is key if we want the positives of modern working to endure.
If you want to work in a space that gives you the flexibility to stay productive while keeping things fun, choose Work.Life. Our flexible workspaces, member events and perks are just some of the ways we help make modern working work for you. Pop in to one of our spaces or find out more here.