In our most recent post we discussed how the transactional nature of work today reduces the opportunity to develop longer-term relationships, and much less friendships, with our coworkers.
This post reflects some additional material about the new “rules” of work and the impacts on each of us.
In a Fast Company online commentary on May 18, 2015 entitled These Are The New Rules of Work, author Ross Perlin suggests that we should:
Forget everything you’ve always known about work. The rules have changed.
I will review each of these new rules and provide some examples of how this is affecting clients of mine.
New Rule #1: Work Can Happen Wherever You Are, Anywhere in the World.
Old Rule: You commute to an office every day.
Being able to work remotely and telecommuting have been an increasing part of our work culture for the last generation. I do find it hard to tell how this trend has reduced traffic during morning and evening rush hours on either the roads or public transportation, but an interesting counter-trend has been occurring.
Perlin writes that:
Co-working spaces are popping up everywhere: one estimate puts the number at above 20,000 – a virtual doubling in the number of co-working spaces globally since 2008.
These co-working spaces provide opportunities for people to work, with Wi-Fi connectivity and other office resources available, as well as a place to meet others and make connections.
I have been working at a health care incubator in the Loop in Chicago recently. This is a well-equipped open-space with many conference and meeting rooms available and the energy and activity are always close to frenetic.
Although this is a sponsored location, many companies, especially consulting organizations, have similar operational layouts. People do not have defined spaces for themselves but can flexibly plan to do their work and meet with others.
New Rule #2: You’re On Call 24-7.
Old Rule: Work is 9-5.
Because of the advantages of technology, employers care less about how you get your work done as long as it gets done on time and done well. This does provide tremendous flexibility, but it also means that we are always on call.
Perlin notes that 44% of workers attend to their duties while on vacation and 34% work on at least one weekend day every week. For the self-employed, that latter statistic is 43%.
I have worked for myself for almost 20 years and you can literally work around the clock if you wish. But there can be unintended consequences of this within organizations.
In the 360° interview process for the head of a large team, my client was given feedback that his evening and weekend emails put a tremendous amount of pressure on many of those that supported him. His point was that when an idea popped into his head, he would dash off an email to alert others about the need for a follow-up.
The problem is that he often did this on weekends when he would catch up and prepare for his coming work week. The folks that received these felt compelled to respond promptly due to their respect for him and his position, but they also felt this was an unfair imposition during their time off.
My client took that feedback well and adjusted expectations all around.
New Rule #3: You Go From Gig to Gig, Project to Project.
Old Rule: You have a full-time job with benefits.
Last year it was estimated that there are 53 million freelancers in the U.S. marketplace which represents 34% of the workforce. Perlin mentioned that:
The polite question to ask today is not “Where do you work?”, but “What are you working on?”
This is the reality of the contingent workforce and although half of these freelancers “feel lucky and liberated, the other half are seriously stressed, wishing they could find full-time work.”
This does create a constant need for freelancers to be networking and marketing themselves all the time. You’re also faced with the challenge of having a lot of great projects stack up on you, only to complete them and find that you’ve been too busy to network and market yourself and that your pipeline of work can dry up.
This creates a lot of pressure for the freelancer, but it does not seem like the bond between employer and employee will ever revert back to where each party could consistently rely on the relationship between each other.
New Rule #4: The Line Between Work and Life is Disappearing.
Old Rule: Work / Life balance is about two distinct, separate spheres.
Perlin comments that platforms like:
Airbnb and Uber enabled the monetization of slack resources, where many people suddenly had themselves working overtime as landlords or drivers.
Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as numerous others that I don’t really know much about, mean that we are constantly connecting with family and friends about what’s going on with us both personally and professionally.
I enjoy Facebook to keep up on what family and friends are doing, but I do think the boundaries about what is shared can often seem extreme. These various electronic methods do enhance the frequency of connections, but I wonder how the quality of the connection can be diminished.
But it is an opportunity to constantly be selling or advertising yourself in real time to an ever increasing “market” of connections.
New Rule #5: You Have to “Love What You Do”.
Old Rule: You work for money, to support yourself and your family.
Perlin suggests that this “Love What You Do” mentality can lead to your work gobbling up your life, since it’s all about a cause rather than providing services to an organization for the good of the client.
I discuss the issue of passion with many of my clients and do urge them to focus as much of their energy as possible on those elements of their jobs where they are most passionate, meaning they are generally very good at it and it consistently fires them up.
When that can happen, it’s generally a win-win for everyone – but increasingly the need to gain maximum fulfillment out of your normal work means that many become increasingly disenchanted with the intrinsic rewards a job can provide. Satisfaction with a job can be fleeting. Work can often be a grind and that used to be more readily accepted.
My concern is that this creates an unusual amount of job churn which prevents people from really mastering a set of skills and gaining the full benefits, the ups and the downs, that experience can provide.
As I conclude this post, I am quite aware of the fact that some of my comments or perspectives are reflective of an “old fart” as my father used to say. But sometimes the value of experience provides interesting perspectives about how things change.
I believe that the primary challenge for all workers in the current economy is to provide boundaries for themselves between work and life. I recognize that is increasingly difficult to do, but I believe it is critical for our personal satisfaction.
- Have I learned to be able to shut off the “Noise” of constantly being bombarded with electronic communications?
- Do I consistently make the time for personal interactions rather than settling for electronic connections?
- Have I developed effective boundaries for protecting my personal life and development?
I look forward to your thoughts and comments.