Investment in people
The concept of the workplace has been evolving
since the first cave man shut the door to his office to take a call. In the
corporate world, this meant going from buildings full of small offices, to open
plan rooms with a sea of desks, and a long list of refinements along the way.
While the idea of having your own office is considered archaic and most of today’s
workforce won’t have been working when this was the norm, open plan offices
have also come a long way.
The advancement of technology and
research into employee productivity has changed the concept of the workplace.
Wealthy companies have spent money and time studying how to increase employee productivity
and profits. The results have seen considerable investment in employee welfare,
and open plan offices have evolved into spaces where people can choose how they
work and how they recharge. Gyms, relaxation rooms, showers, and cafés have all
become features of modern, desirable offices. Some companies go even further,
providing slides, games, beds and more, to ensure their employees feel valued
and can provide their best work.
This has also meant the acceptance of
other modes of working. The most accommodating open plan office won’t work for
everyone, and the idea of ‘going to work’ is becoming less a literal action and
more a metaphor. Businesses around the world are embracing the idea of working
remotely. While this is becoming more common, so too is not having a boss at
all. The “gig economy” is being built by freelancers offering specialist
services and new businesses that can’t afford their expertise full-time.
The gig economy
The gig economy is touted as giving
businesses and employees flexibility. Becoming a freelancer opens a world of
freedom and choice, allowing workers to manage their own workload and perform
tasks from wherever they choose. If this means working from three in the
morning until lunchtime, while in pyjamas, then that’s fine.
However convenient this relationship,
there are downsides that both sides of the transaction should be aware of. Freelancers
miss out on a number of benefits that full-time, contracted employees receive.
The first and most important being the security afforded to an employee. Once
past the probation period, businesses are required to have a valid reason to terminate
an employee contract. A freelancer can be let go at any moment, regardless of
how good their work, without compensation. Freelancers also don’t accrue
holiday leave, aren’t entitled to personal or carer’s leave, or bereavement
leave, and don’t get an extra holiday loading percentage in their pay cheque as
casual employees receive.
There are downsides for businesses too.
Freelancers won’t contribute to company culture or provide ideas beyond the
project on which they are paid to work. The appeal of freelancing can be the
variety of work, however from a business’ viewpoint, they won’t have a
workforce of specialists who can create work that is intrinsically on brand.
Instead, a freelancer’s detachment from the company might lead to lower quality
work, especially for smaller companies that don’t have the brand recognition of
a larger, more established one.
Change across the board
It’s not only office and corporate
culture that is being changed. Technology and shifting social divisions are
reshaping workplaces for trades, healthcare and manufacturing. Automation and
the aging population are having a huge impact on employment, making industries
such as medical and aged care good bets for future growth, while factories are
relying less and less on human-power to create and control the manufacturing
process. The effect of technology is far reaching, with even hands-on
occupations like plumbers, electricians and builders embracing new advances.
While the nuts and bolts of the roles remain largely the same, new ideas are
influencing everything from fleet tracking to improve efficiency and service,
to customer focussed advances such as self-lowering toilet seats and touchless
flushing. Regardless of how small the change, the accumulation of small
advances means that no industry is immune to the changing employment landscape.
Pathways — Apprenticeships and Traineeships
Pathways — Higher Education
Pathways — Vocational Education and Training (VET)