Friday, 13 August 2010

The emerging work life balance: emancipation or exploitation?

Employers of choice are able to offer a good work life balance, coupled with the means with which their staff can aid their own self development and progress in their career. In return employers expect flexibility from them to react to what is more and more a rapidly changing and 24 hour work environment – hell I am writing about work subjects even on my downtime if that is any indication of the 24/7 culture!

Nevertheless employees have in recent times become more uneasy about the work-life balance coming under threat, with the economic climate being used as a means with which to justify demands of more flexibility and productivity from them in these times of austerity.

In recent posts I have discussed about the dangers this is posing to the psychological contract - given some of the information coming out of the Department of Justice at the moment one could imagine that many staff their feel it is a busted flush.

On the one hand I understand these fears, especially for those in the not for profit sector where things seem to be grinding to a halt more so than their private sector counterparts in terms of the good news. However I think there might be some real opportunities here that I feel cautiously optimistic about.

By having to get more productivity from fewer resources, there will be less demarcation of seniority between positions than has previously occurred – or rather if you are willing and able, you will have the chance to try your hands at new tasks. In such circumstances there is a chance for staff to be exposed to much wider briefs than perhaps initially set out in when they arrived in an organisation.

Some might view this as a slightly na├»ve viewpoint – perhaps a reflection of the stage I am in my career in that there are more opportunities for learning and progression than, for example, a Senior Manager or Director.

However what is the alternative? Why not up-skill as much as you can in the down time and then if it gets so demanding that you feel that you are being taken advantage of transfer those skills elsewhere? Though difficult, at least you have done the most you can in the interim to improve your chances at landing the next role.

There again, maybe there is a third way to try and make the best of what is happening….

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