Last week I met with some co-workers for a coffee and we discussed how things have changed in workplace since the late 80s – when most of us started. “It’s just a different workplace these days” one said. He elaborated by saying, “I don’t know when I’m supposed to stop working. I get emails from people at 3:00am!” Aside from blurred work hours and loss of home life, other topics came up such as job security and seniority being things of the past, career advancement is your own responsibility and the company conduct is best described as “Swimming with sharks”.
What I notice most is the virtual nature of organizations and the constant layoffs – knowledge and skills disappearing. Another layer of complexity is that most the people I work with are located in the UK, across the US and Australia. I rarely work with staff in my home Country of Canada and as a result I dont have proximity to people I need to execute. Also, constant layoffs always put my network at risk so I’m constantly developing my network – which takes much effort.
You could say I’m a prime example of a mobile worker, fly Monday, work with my clients and company staff during the week and fly home Friday. I work from a variety of locations including offices, trains, planes, airports and coffee shops to name a few. My home office is fitted with furniture, reference materials and technology that surpasses my employers offices in usability.
With mobility becoming more common (Forrester 2006) how will it affect company culture? The blurring of work and home life? Career advancement? Think about it…people will be more disconnected and less able to perform unless companies act proactively to instill values and directives so that employees remain productive and behave. Employees will be forced to balance their lives or suffer from burnout or eventual divorce (if you’re married). On that subject, someone I work with told me a story about a conversation with his daughter of 5 years old. She had drawn this picture of the family, here brother and sister were in the picture and so was the mother – he wasn’t though. He asked, “Where is daddy?” She said “He’s at work.”
On another topic, career advancement (within the same company)…is that a thing of the past for many? Most people seem to have a difficulty time hanging to what they have much less advance. Most still believe that advancement means a jump from one company to the next, I firmly believe in this. Most companies these days are in and out of downsizing mode monthly and under much pressure to delivery quarterly results that are typically unrealistic.
So how do you deal with the reality of the new workplace? It’s not a simple answer. I would suggest reading a few books and industry studies, this will arm you with knowledge valuable to your career:
Best of luck.