Monday, October 20, 2008

Say Buh-Bye to Flexibility and Hello to Longer Hours

I went on eBay the other day to try and purchase a crystal ball. Unfortunately, the ones that were available didn't come with a guarantee, so I decided to pass.

I mean, who wouldn't want a crystal ball to see into the future -- to see how we're all going to survive this mess and whether or not the Rays really can go from being the worst team in baseball to winning the World Series in a year's time?

OK, so when the crystal ball thing didn't work out, I decided to just talk to a lot of different people about the situation on the job today. I didn't talk to just experts, but also regular folks who worry about their jobs, who wonder if their bosses are telling them the truth and if they need to be looking for a second job.

While this is unscientific, this is what my gut tells me -- after decades of covering the workplace -- what you may see come to your workplace:

1. Less flexibility. Companies already are operating lean, but because of the nervousness about how deep and long the recession will last, employers will want employees to really buckle down. And that means that bosses or companies offering flexibility options such as working certain hours or working from home may start to cut back those choices because they want to stick really close to workers right now. So that means where and when the boss works -- so will you.

2. Less tolerance for whining. Bosses are tense. I mean really tense. Maybe they're not showing it to employees, but trust me, they're very stressed by what is going on. They want to be there for employees who are worried about their jobs or the economy, but they can only take so much whining. Those workers who don't recognize when to suck it up and just shut up and work are going to put themselves in jeopardy. Remember: There are lots of great, qualified people out of work right now, and the boss's pickings to replace you have never been better.

3. More generational conflict. Things between older and younger workers have sometimes been tense, but there's always been the argument that baby boomers are going to be retiring in droves soon, so employers will be forced to pay attention to what younger workers want. But with so many baby boomers seeing their portfolios and 401(k)s tank, chances are good many of them are going to stick around much longer. And that's not going to sit well with GenX and GenY, since it mucks up their plans. Employers are going to have little patience (see No.2) for workers who can't get along.

4. Longer hours. Maybe you thought your workload couldn't get any worse. Guess what? It can.

5. Fewer benefits. Those goody packages used to attract and retain top workers are going to start drying up. Companies have pretty much cut as many bodies as they can, so they're going to look for other ways to trim costs. So, if you're thinking of using your company's tuition reimbursement, adoption assistance, gym memberships, etc., do it now. Before too much longer, they may be gone.

What other trends do you think we'll see -- or already are seeing -- in the workplace because of the struggling economy?


Anonymous said...

Over the weekend, I saw a story about a company that purchased treadmill workstations that allow employees to walk while they're talking on the phone, working on their computer, etc. They mentioned it decreased the average cholesterol levels of their staff and even promotes creative thinking.

I don't know about you, but the only thinking I would be doing would be about not falling off of the treadmill.

Anita said...

As someone who cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, I hear you!
It will be interesting to see what other trends pop up as a result of our increased stress these days...bounce houses in the parking lot during lunch? You never know...

Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Anita, I agree with these points.

The deal is whenever there is an economic downturn, there are fewer choices. We play the musical chair game with corporate reorganization and we are forced to take the choice of manager when we sit down.

It is risky to leave a position because the devil you know is better than the one you don't.

But, I would encourage people to look at what they want in their career. When times are tough, is what you are doing what you love? You can learn a lot about your work in tough times -- just don't expect it to be easy.

And, don't lose your integrity. Your values mean the most when times are tough - precisely because they are your values.

If your job infringes on your integrity, it's not worth working there.

Anita said...

I love what you say about how we learn during tough times. I think that is very true. We learn a lot about ourselves and the organization. And, I also agree that you shouldn't stay in a job that is asking you to do something unethical or've got to get out of there ASAP. I have great hope that these difficult times will make people once again focus on what makes us unique -- our ability to help one another, to make a difference, to do quality work for all the right reasons.
Thanks for such great comments.