Changing Work Patterns
If the workplace of today could be characterized by a single theme, it would most likely focus on the continual presence of change. Dramatic changes in technology, the marketplace and the workforce have compelled organizations to re-evaluate not only the competitiveness of their products, but also the core ways in which work is performed. It is out of this pursuit for continued survival that organizations have been faced with the notion of varying work-schedules beyond the traditional hours of nine to five. This paper will explore the societal and business changes that have led to a proliferation in flexible work patterns. This paper will also address the benefits and disadvantages of flexible work patterns for both employees and employers.
Demographic trends affecting the Australian labour pool have resulted in considerable workforce changes. The single most important change is the mass entry of women into the workforce, especially married women with children. Spurred initially by equal opportunity legislation, affirmative action and the women’s movement, the growth in women’s workforce participation has been sustained by increased education, a desire for personal fulfilment, economic necessity, and the high rate of divorce.
The percentage of women in the workforce has increased from 50 percent in the 1970’s to 75 percent in 1998. Sixty-two percent of mothers with children under the age of six are employed, while 75 percent of mothers with children between the ages of six and seventeen are employed. Concurrently, new family structures have emerged, as the traditional “nuclear family” (single-earner husband, homemaker wife and children) has declined to minority status. The nuclear family description fits only ten percent of working households today. Nearly half of all workers are now members of dual-earner families, and single-parent families are the fastest growing segment of the workforce. Fewer men have the support of a full-time homemaker wife who can both shield them from family-related work, and enable them to direct energies exclusively toward a career.
These figures demonstrate significant trends in the changing profile of today’s labour pool. Not only are companies forced to recruit and hire from an increasingly diverse workforce, but companies intent on succeeding also will have to retain, motivate and engage the most talented women. Flexible work arrangements are options for helping working mothers integrate work and family responsibilities, so that women can function better both at home and in the workplace.
Changes in the demographic characteristics and lifestyles of the workforce are occurring at a time when businesses are also in a state of flux. Global competitive pressures and the push toward greater productivity have resulted in a number of organizational changes that increase the appeal of alternative work arrangements.
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