Definition of work
According to Merriam-Webster, work is;
- to perform work or fulfill duties regularly for wages or salary works in publishing
- to perform or carry through a task requiring sustained effort or continuous repeated operations worked all day over a hot stove
Importance of work
Working, whether paid or unpaid, is good for our health and well-being. It contributes to our happiness, helps us to build confidence and self-esteem, and rewards us financially. Because of these benefits, it is important to return to work as soon as possible after an illness or injury.
Being in work:
- keeps us busy, challenges us and gives us the means to develop ourselves;
- gives us a sense of pride, identity and personal achievement;
- enables us to socialise, build contacts and find support;
- provides us with money to support ourselves and explore our interests.
Health benefits of working
People in work tend to enjoy happier and healthier lives than those who are not in work.
Our physical and mental health is generally improved through work – we recover from sickness quicker and are at less risk of long term illness and incapacity.
Because of the health benefits, sick and disabled people are encouraged to return to, or remain in, work if their health condition permits it.
Work, we can’t really avoid it. Human civilization has been built on work, the laboring of many billions of people throughout history has created the cities, farms, industries, armies and infrastructure which have marked our time on the planet. Even before human civilization emerged, the role of labor and the development of different kinds of tools has been central to our evolution from the more primitive primates.
People work to provide themselves and their families with the basic essentials or life–food, clothing and shelter. Once these basic essentials are met, other needs and wants become important.
Human relationships- People basically like companionship. People seek companionship with persons who have interests similar to their own. Working is a means of associating with people who have similar interests. Being part of a group gives people a feeling of belonging. Your work can provide companionship and associations with other persons.
Personal Development- A persons work can provide and opportunity to learn and grow intellectually and socially. It is a means of attaining new goals in life by developing new skills and learning new things. Work allows people to reach their fullest potential. Your work can grow and reach your potential.
Job Satifaction-Since most or your adult waking life will be spent working, it is important to choose and occupation that will bring job satisfaction. You, as well as your family will be happier if the occupation you choose is satisfying.
Service- Service may be defined as the things which a person does which are benificial or useful to others. People like to make quality products, provide useful services and in general, make a contribution to society. In addition, people like to feel that the work they do is important and of value to others. Your work can be a service to others.
Security- People look for security in their occupations. We need to know that when tomorrow comes, there will be work for us so that money may be earned. People want stability in their lives in order to make realistic and effective plans for the future. Your work can provide you with this security.
Success- All ambitious young people are interested in securing a beginning job that offers an opportunity for advancement. employers are interested in employing persons who like a challenge and who want to be successful in life. Your work can give you success.
Changing patterns of work
In recent years there has been a changing pattern to employment and this has helped employers to develop a more flexible working pattern among their employees. These trends are:
- Increasing self-employment – this area is increasing in many countries
- Reduction in full-time employment – firms now use fewer full time employees and tend to offer more short-term contracts
- Part-time working – there has been a growth in the level of part-time employment. This may be a lifestyle choice on the part of many, but firms have encouraged this trend as part-time employment offers more flexibility
- Contractors – many firms now use contractors and consultants for a wide range of task. This has led to many previous employees setting up as self-employed contractors.
- Temporary employment – increasing numbers of employees have been on temporary working contracts. Again these are used by firms to ensure flexibility – we look at this in more detail below.
Firms like flexible workforces as it enables them to adapt their employee levels to meet fluctuations in demand and to try to maintain their competitive advantage in the face of external changes. To achieve greater flexibility, firms are using more part-time, temporary and external contractors, which allow them to increase or decrease their work teams as required. It may also provide more flexibility to the employees themselves who may work from home, select their own working hours and days.
Shifting social attitudes to work-life balance and improved communications technology have already brought forms of flexible working to 45 per cent of British companies, according to the CBI employment trends survey 2009, with 24 per cent more considering similar changes.
In his 1989 book The Age of Unreason, Charles Handy examined a time when life and the work environment was shaped by us, and for us. Handy foresaw new organisations emerging as well as new working patterns, such as teleworking, outsourcing, and portfolio working. He believed these new working patterns will be reflected in changing patterns of business, with a mix of small enterprises and large conglomerates which will create temporary alliances to deliver particular projects.
“I like less the story that a frog if put in cold water will not bestir itself if that water is heated up slowly and gradually and will in the end let itself be boiled alive, too comfortable with continuity to realize that continuous change at some point may become intolerable and demand a change in behaviour.”
Charles Handy – The Age of Unreason
Handy suggested three new forms of organisation:
- the Shamrock organisation
- the Federal organisation
- the Triple I organisation
Organisations are increasingly using fewer core staff as these are the most expensive of their available human resources. Full time employees have access to a range of benefits such as pensions, sickness benefit. The Shamrock organisation is based around a core of essential executives and employees, supported by outside contractors and part-time workers.
The Federal organisation is a decentralised set-up in which the centre’s (HQ’s) powers are delegated to regional and outlying organisations. The function of the centre becomes one of co-ordination and advice.
The Triple I organisation represents ‘Information, Intelligence and Ideas’. This organisation resembles a university set-up and will seek to add value from knowledge rather than goods and services in a traditional sense.
Technological advances have made Handy’s ideas easier to implement and support. Advances in communications and group networks have allowed the office environment to be replicated in part in external locations, including the home. As a result employees can be more mobile.
One example of the use of new ideas and technology is hot desking. Hot desking optimises space by allocating workstations according to need. It is used in places where not all the employees are in the office at the same time, or not in the office for very long at all, which means actual personal offices would be often vacant, consuming valuable space and resources. Employees do not have their own desks in the conventional sense.
With the growth of mobile employees or remote working, hot desking can also include the routing of voice and other messaging services to any location where the user is able to log in to their secure corporate network. Organisations like Microsoft offer software that is able to deliver applications to desktops without installing the application, creating a virtual workstation wherever the employee happens to be.
Part-time employment provides flexibility benefits for both firms and for employees. For firms part-time employees are cheaper to hire and often do not have additional responsibility allowances and benefits that are awarded to full-time staff. They may not have the same level of job security (although the law has been updated in many countries to improve the situation) and tend to be easier to replace when they leave.
However, part-time employees may be less motivated and loyal to the business and are probably less willing to volunteer to work additional time when required to cope with unexpected demand patterns. Part-time staff do not tend to stay with employees for as long as full-time staff.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), formed in 1948, is an international economic organisation with 31 members that offers a forum for member governments to consult and co-operate with each other in order to develop and refine economic and social policy. The population of the OECD countries exceeds one billion.
The OECD’s purpose is to stimulate economic progress and world trade and it produces a range of economic and employment data to support its work
This data below shows that part time employment is increasing across the OECD rising from 11.94% of employees in 2000 to 15.51% in 2008. There has been an increase in part time employment in all but one year from 2000 to 2008. Women represent a far larger percentage of part time employees than men (just under a ratio of 3:1).
A job may be considered temporary if employer and employee agree that its end is determined by objective conditions such as a specific date, the completion of a task or the return of another employee who has been temporarily replaced (usually stated in a work contract of limited duration).
Typical cases are people:
- with seasonal employment.
- engaged by an agency or employment exchange and hired to a third party to perform a specific task (unless there is a written work contract of unlimited duration).
- with specific training contracts.
The significance of temporary working can be clearly seen in chart below, which gives a comparison of temporary working in selected EU countries in 2009.
As can be seen from the chart, Portugal and Spain have over a quarter of their workforce in temporary employment. The EU average is 13.5%, which is still a significant number.
Flexitime covers any variations in working hours from the standard 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. working day, in the form of:
- Flexible working hours
- Term-time working
- Job sharing
- Employments breaks and sabbaticals
- Annualised hours
Staff will have some say in the selection of their hours which allows them more freedom to concentrate on their out of work commitments, such as child care.
- Recruitment and retention of qualified staff who may not be able to work traditional hours
- Equality of opportunity for people who would otherwise be prevented from entering the workforce
- Work patterns which can accommodate variations in customer demand patterns
- Success in tackling skills shortages
- Reduces absenteeism and lateness
- Creates a better sense of personal responsibility
- Improves efficiency in core time and reduces overtime levels
- Scheduling work rotas is more time consuming for managers
- Can encourage time watching
- Full time employees may be resentful
- Possible communications difficulties when staff are not there or sharing roles
Portfolio working will contribute more to a better work/life balance. It is to a method of employment that is not dependant on any one client or company where individuals are paid for a number of different skills, products or services that they offer, often from their own home office using the internet. So a freelance or self-employed person could be called a portfolio worker if they have a variety of clients to whom they offer different services, or a person who works part time at two, three or more different organisations. The term portfolio working also includes people who work for an organisation part-time, but have their own business as well.
Portfolio working increases the flexibility and mobility of a firm’s human resources, but may cause problems for the worker who may not be able to rely on a constant source of income resulting in cash flow crises. Indeed, portfolio worker may find it difficult to access dome financial services, such as applying for mortgages, because they cannot guarantee that they can make regular payments.
Teleworking (telecommuting) / Homeworking
Telecommute and Telework
To Telecommute is to periodically or regularly perform work for one’s employer from home or another remote location.
To Telework is to perform all of one’s work either from home or another remote location, either for an employer or through self-employment.
If a person working at a distance from their colleagues or base, using communications technology to do their work, they are a teleworker, whatever job they do, and whether they are employed, self employed, or an independent professional.
Advantages for the individual
In most cases the teleworker also works from home. Teleworking improves the output of employees, both in quality and quantity, whilst improving the work-life balance of the individual. It helps to rejuvenate local communities and reduce the waste and pollution of commuting. So at every level, individual, business, industry, society or even the whole economy, it brings benefits. Some of these are highly quantifiable, such as cost savings, whilst others, such as the quality of life, may be less tangible but are certainly no less important.
The individual teleworker is able to eliminate or reduce the inconvenience of commuting saving a significant amount of wasted time and money as well as reducing stress. Being able to pick up the children from school, shop outside peak hours and take a more active role in the local community are other possibilities.
However one of the key benefits of working from home is that people find it much more productive than going in to a conventional workplace. Teleworkers are able to work in surroundings they have chosen without the interruptions often found in the open plan offices of today. With broadband communications and electronic communications they are able to achieve many tasks that have conventionally been done at the office desk and now with web conferencing technology they can have video meetings without having to travel.
Benefits for the employer
Whilst teleworking and other forms of flexible working are often viewed as ‘family friendly’ rather than ‘business friendly’ in fact they are both. There is strong research evidence to show that remote and flexible workers are more productive, more reliable and more loyal than their office based counterparts. They have a better work-life balance, waste less time and money on unnecessary travel and have a reduced ‘carbon footprint’. In difficult economic times employers are looking for ways to reduce the cost of the workforce and increase efficiency. Encouraging telework does both by reducing the amount of office space required, whilst increasing the output from employees.
The number of Americans who worked from home or remotely at least one day per month for their employer increased from approximately 12.4 million in 2006 to 17.2 million in 2008.
The rise in the number of telecommuters represents a two-year increase of 39 percent, and an increase of 74 percent since 2005. In 2005, the number of employees allowed to work from home or remotely at least one day per month by their employer was approximately 9.9 million.
Problems associated with work
1. Inadequate job descriptions
A well-written job description eliminates misunderstandings between management and employees and becomes the very foundation of performance reviews, creating a baseline of measurement. Job descriptions serve as a documented record of what an employee should accomplish in their position and what activities they must perform well to meet those objectives. This should be treated as an employment contract, creating the tool to measure job performance. Make sure that job description documents are provided to all employees and that they are utilized regularly.
2. Lack of training
Nothing has become more apparent in today’s workplace than the lack of employee training. Some companies merely throw new employees onto the front line, forcing them to learn on their own through trial and error. Others provide formal training, but in the wrong manner. Both are equally detrimental to corporate performance.
Formal training is a must. Effective training must directly pertain to the employee’s job description. It should address how an employee can best accomplish position objectives and complete supporting activities. Additionally, training must include accountability. Every skill taught must be paired with performance accountability, which requires management to measure each employee’s progress. In many cases, training classes never receive another mention from management after they’re completed, and, as a result, nothing ever changes. The final aspect of effective training is using the right trainer. All too often, human resource people teach classes. These are individuals who have read the books but don’t have practical experience on the subject they are to teach. Great teachers have walked their talk.
3. Ineffective job performance reviews
In an ineffective performance review, the boss often does all the talking, doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or doesn’t have all the information. They are often only completing the review because they have to.
To put performance reviews back on track, management must first recognize the stakes. The few hours spent discussing an employee’s performance will affect what the employee thinks and does for the next full six months to a year. A lot of homework and heart needs to be put into reviews. Managers should make sure to use the employee’s job description and review their performance in the context of a discussion. The manager should ask the employee to share their perspectives on each subject first. And, the manager should first focus on performance strengths before addressing areas that need improvement.
A successful performance review ends with agreement between the employee and manager, and with a jointly designed set of performance objectives going forward. This leaves the employee with a sincere vote of confidence.
4. Lack of two-way communication
Great managers know how to do a great job and great leaders know how to get employees to do a great job. Regular two-way communication lies at the very foundation of what great leaders deliver. When employees know what a manager knows, it creates an attitude and behavior of company ownership that leads to excellent performance. Management should make a regular concerted effort in communicating with all employees through as many mediums as possible.
5. Ineffective employee recognition
It’s nice to have awards and contests at work, but what counts most is the daily thank you. This turns employee recognition from a project into a culture. This takes a concerted effort by management and an understanding that there is always something positive that can be said to each employee each day.
6. Lack of job-related accountability
What irks great employees more than anything is witnessing poor performing employees being allowed to continue on being poor performing employees. This can lead to corporate financial failure, as good employees either leave or shrink down to being equally as poor as the rest. As important as it is to recognize great employee performances, the job performance review process provides the means to enforce accountabilities. Follow proper training and corrective action, and if employees fail to measure up, terminate employment. Too many employers are being held hostage by poor performing employees, when in fact they would be miles ahead if they were rid of them.
7. Improper or excessive company policies
All companies must have policies that all employees follow. However, a company should strive to have as few policies as possible. One of the most recent discoveries is that a business environment that provides freedom and the invitation to be creative always leads to the highest performing employees. Too many policies stifle employee performance.
8. Lack of equipment and facilities
Management must make sure to pay attention to the type and condition of equipment that is being utilized by the employees. Capital expenditures on equipment and facilities are a very high percentage of operation expenses. Know what is needed, furnish it and then maintain it. And, make sure employees participate all the way. Safety goes up, right along with morale.
9. Lack of charitable community involvement
Charitable community involvement has proven to be a powerful element of employee development. Employers should support employees’ opportunity to spend, for example, one day per quarter serving a charitable organization within the community and paying them for doing so. Businesses that commit to this culture earn employees who have a much higher appreciation for their jobs and company.
10. A lousy manager
A positive business environment includes the presence of managers who are good role models for employees. Measure success in this area by seeking evaluations from employees. It is key for management to ask how they’re doing.
Solutions to the problems
Everyone encounters problems periodically. Some people seem to have more problems than others, some problems are bigger than others or more troublesome than others, but life is definitely full of problems waiting to be solved. The career exploration and job-seeking process is rife with problems: what jobs match your career interests, where are the jobs you’d like to do, how do you convince an employer that you’re the best candidate for a job, how to please your boss once you are hired, and so forth. But it is when you have secured employment that you may need to do your best problem solving in order to maintain or keep your job and, hopefully, advance.
The problem-solving model described below details a process for analyzing and resolving problems. Although the model appears to be quite simple, it actually involves a considerable amount of work on your part…it is simple, but not easy! If you follow the suggested steps, you can gain control of almost any difficult or confusing situation by analyzing the problem that is occurring and identifying possible solutions to it. Each stage of the problem-solving model is listed first and the anticipated outcome goal for each stage is listed parenthetically after it; then, the suggested strategies for achieving the goal follow in bullet-ed format.
Outcome goal: identify your problem
- Think about what is bothering you—can you describe the problem?
- Write out how you feel—what you feel is wrong in your life at this moment.
- Talk to someone who truly cares about you and ask what he or she thinks is getting in your way or causing you difficulty.
- Write out what you think the problem is in behavioral terms—describe the situation as objectively as possible. What behaviors are you or others doing to cause conflict or anxiety in your life?
Outcome goal: develop your plan to solve the problem
- Answer the following questions:1. “How are you contributing to the problem?”
2. “How are others contributing to the problem?”
3. “How does the environment or society contribute to the problem?”
4. “What has kept you from solving this problem to date?”
- Brainstorm (discuss openly) the situation with others who care about you to determine their perspective and their answers to the same four questions.
- Write out your answers and the answers that others have given you.
- Think about what you have written and determine what the parameters of the problem truly are based on all the answers to these four questions.
- Write out what you consider to be viable solutions…ideas for solving the problem that you have seen work for others or that you simply think might work for you.
- Brainstorm with others—what would they do in similar circumstances?
- Write out their ideas—capture all of their ideas whether you think they are good ideas or not (try not to value judge the ideas that others share with you) and add them to the list of ideas that you generated earlier.Hint: If you think you can’t capture other people’s ideas quickly by writing them out, consider tape recording their ideas and transferring them to print or braille later.
- Read through all of the ideas on your list.
- Eliminate any ideas on your list that you feel are silly or don’t make good sense to you.
- Rank your list of viable ideas from the easiest to the hardest idea to do.
- Develop your action plan based on your rank ordered list. Some tips:1. Date your plan. Put today’s date on it.
2. Be sure to set up your plan with the easiest thing to do first. Call that step one and identify start and finish dates (when you hope to accomplish the first step).
3. List each step with start and finish dates, understanding that you can always adjust your dates, if necessary.
4. Identify the key people with whom you will share your plan. It’s more likely to happen if others know about it!
5. Identify how you will know when you have accomplished all of the steps—in other words, what is the solution you are hoping to achieve?
6. Identify how you will reward yourself at completion. We all need rewards—yours may be a walk in the park, a bubble bath, a new CD, a new outfit, a trip to the ball park, whatever your heart desires!
Outcome goal: implement your plan
Strategies for keeping up with your plan:
- Post the written copy of your plan in a conspicuous place.
- Give copies of your plan to others who care about you in their preferred reading medium.
- Ask your friends and family with whom you have shared your plan to give you feedback as they see you working on it. If they see that you are not following through with the plan, ask them to call your inactivity to your attention.
- Evaluate your progress frequently—note whether or not you are accomplishing the steps in the time frame that you defined.
- Reward yourself at the completion of each step in the process.
- If you find that you are not making progress, reconsider the steps you’ve listed. Did you identify the easiest thing to do first? Did you start there? Is there something else that you need to do before you can begin? What is it? Write it down and start with it!
- Are you stuck? If so, you may want to find a “good ear” and talk about what’s keeping you from progressing.
- If all else fails, revisit the model—explore, understand, act! You may have identified the wrong problem or there may be another problem that demands attention before you can solve the problem you’ve been attempting to solve.
- Don’t blame others for your problem—if something is bothering you, it’s your problem and you need to solve it!
- Don’t rationalize your problem—if something is bothering you, it’s your problem and you need to solve it!
- Don’t ignore your problem—if something is bothering you, it’s your problem and you need to solve it!
- Be patient with yourself!