It is common thought that the nature of work is changing, as technologies and social behaviour evolve.
One aspect of this which has caused concern for some is that of casualisation. We see widespread commentary on the increasing proportion of lower paid jobs which are part time, casual, or even “zero hours” contracts.
For those who are running businesses this is a deliberate lowering of committed overhead costs. In most businesses being able to have flexibility in when people are employed is an important part of competitive operation. For many people such flexibility of working hours is also welcome as it suits their lifestyle and other responsibilities. But for many other people it is a threat, primarily because it reduces their ability to earn an adequate living from a single job, introducing not only insecurity but also hassle and other costs to the process. Not easy to resolve, and it seems very likely to me that the genie has escaped this bottle with no current plans to return.
The work pattern change, however challenging for many, is simply too consistent with the pace and direction of change in so many other aspects of social and economic life. As it evolves we will see ways to deal with the negatives and embrace the positives.
One aspect which I have observed is that many of the most advanced and thorough levels of the process have happened to date in jobs which are amongst the lowest paid. The reasons for this may be many and varied, but on reflection it is hard to escape the conclusion that one major aspect is simply that managers (and, yes, directors) of businesses have embraced the concept as being for others, in particular those with the least influence in the workplace. After all, the potential gains from the process are greater further up the pay scale.
It might be that senior executive positions are simply not well suited to higher levels of flexibility. I have no doubt that many senior executives will think so. But the more I reflect on my role as a director and advisor across a wide range of activities the more I wonder if this is true.
Properly structured, having your business able to access senior and high paid skills when and where you want them seems pretty attractive.
Do I really need a full working week from each of the senior executives in my team? Not always, is the honest answer. In practice, while we are “flexing” at the bottom, we are often promoting salaries and incentives at the top which emphasise total time and other commitment sustained over long periods with major break costs on our business. Maybe we should be rethinking this and really embracing the flexible work model.