Work in the 21st Century is turning out to be very different to what we experienced in the late 20th century. The only thing that is constant in most organisations is change. This change ranges from altering organisational structures to introducing new and tighter admin processes for claiming expenses. Change has always been with us but the challenges and complexities organisations face today, are of a different order of magnitude.Employees are facing increasing pressures in trying to be both effective at work and maintain a quality home life. Modern business demands high quality performance, short response times, long working hours and heavy workloads. At home, people face money pressures, family demands, education concerns, high lifestyle expectations, and limited time with loved ones.Recently we have witnessed a series of financial and economic shocks that have reverberated across the world. Since the 1970’s we entered a new age. This age is often referred to as the information age. This is the age in which technology begun to play an increasingly important role in our lives. The information age has ushered in a new set of issues. New technologies – especially computers and telecommunications have become both a blessing and a curse. In one sense the speed with which we can now communicate with a colleague represents a momentous benefit to the workplace. It also represents a platform for tension and stress as results are expected faster and whereabouts can be constantly tracked. Technology advancements have also created increased competition for jobs. Change has been constant throughout life, but the new element that the information age has brought is the remorseless, unrelenting, increasing pace of change. If you are thinking that one day it will slow down and go back to how it was before I have news for you. It won’t! It will continue to accelerate. Work is wearing many people down. It’s intense and the line between home and work is blurring. The concept of work-life balance is, for many, just that – a concept. Work is of course such an important part of our lives, and not simply because of the money. Work gives life meaning, purpose and contributes to our sense of worth1. We are programmed to want to work. I recall listening to the story of a wealthy businessman from Wales. He had built up a large meat business and the opportunity came along for him to sell it. After selling the business and becoming incredibly wealthy, he attempted to spend some time at home doing nothing. It didn’t take him long to realise that he couldn’t survive without working. His wife also couldn’t get used to the idea of him being at home.The corollary to this story is that because of the value we place on work the imperative should be to squeeze as much satisfaction from our time at work as possible. So what are some of the things we can do to cope with change and still enjoy our work?
- Accept that change is here to stay. Leaving one organisation for another might only bring a short term reprieve if you are trying to escape change. Change is happening everywhere.
- Find out more about the organisation you work for. Speak to senior management. Read organisational information. Ask questions about the future plans for the Company. It will help you prepare for any eventual changes.
- Increase your knowledge of what is happening at other organisations. This will give you a better understanding of the issues affecting your sector and help you to spot trends. You can also use your new knowledge to suggest new ideas for your organisation.
- Think about the things you are good at. Is your job allowing you to exhibit your skills regularly? If not find a way to work in a role that matches your skill set.
- Build better relationships with your colleagues. Working life is always better when there is a nucleus of colleagues with which you get on with. This will mean that you find it easier to get things done when you have to rely on others for help.
- Work on your personal development. Focusing on and addressing areas of self improvement often builds confidence. It can also make us less concerned when change comes because we may feel better prepared to cope with it.
Accepting the inevitability of change will mean that we are less likely to be caught off guard when it comes along. Embracing some or all of the tips above may also mean that we can begin to welcome change as an opportunity.Clive LewisManaging Director