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A changing landscape at work

Over the last couple of decades, change has been endemic in the UK workplace, affecting many things we have long taken for granted. Much of the modern working landscape would be unrecognisable to someone working a generation ago. Gone are jobs for life, the manufacturing economy and the rigid nine-to-five shift.

Today, the world of work is characterised by portfolio careers, a rise in home-working and a technology-driven, ‘always-on’ culture. There has been a boom in internships and zero hours contracts and the impact of millennials at work is a reminder that we have moved into an era of distinctly disparate generations within the workforce. We’re still absorbing the implications of many of these changes for the way we manage people and structure our work.

Rethinking work-life balance

One key question arising from all these changes is whether the concept of work-life balance has been superseded by something more congruent with the times – work-life integration. Many organisations are beginning to rethink their approach to the home-work interface. For millennials displaying a more relaxed attitude towards how, where and when they work and sandwich generation carers struggling with the demands of their caring responsibilities – conventional working hours may be less than ideal.

Might we actually get the very best out of people by creating greater freedom to determine how work is organised and where it’s carried out? Are the arguments for keeping a healthy separation between our home and work lives now rather fanciful and possibly out of line with modern realities and employee preferences? And it’s not always employees that are looking for more flexible working patterns. In our global economic environment, how successfully could businesses operate across multiple times zones without making concessions to more agile work patterns?

The risks, benefits and challenges of work-life integration

The Bank Workers Charity and Robertson Cooper have begun to try and answer some of these questions by reviewing current thinking on work-life integration. Making Flexible Working Work: Moving from Work-Life Balance to Integration takes a long look at work-life integration: the risks, the benefits and the challenges.

We know that many businesses have an appetite to work differently but are inhibited by a fear of stepping into uncharted territory. At the same time we know from repeated studies that many employees would like greater flexibility in their work patterns. There does appear to be a convergence of interest here. We hope this paper can inform the debate and at the same time help businesses to plot ways forward around the introduction of work-life integration, that satisfy the needs of employee and employer alike.

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