Workplace Trends and Challenges
The term work-life balance describes the relationship between an individual's work and their personal life. Due to the development in information technology and competitive work atmosphere, there has been increasing in work. This has eroded the culture of long-term loyalty to organizations (Gordon, 2007). Traditionally, in a bid to retain precious employees, companies offer various benefit packages such as pension plans, health and insurance cover. Nevertheless, the ever-tightening labor market, organizations are devising new methods of attracting and retaining workers. This is an example of current trends in work-life issues in organizations. Other examples include the redefinition of retirement age as the aging workforce continues to work into their 80's.
Trends in demography show that there will be no adequate younger people to replace the older ones exiting many industries. Organizations are also increasing their attention on being environmentally friendly. This new trend is referred to as going green or green practices. There are also a growing number of overworked and underemployed employees. The underemployed complain that they cannot find enough work while many professionals are overburdened by long hours of work. They cannot find enough time to be with their family members. There is also growth in the number of flexible working practices. The common type is part time work. Over twenty-five percent of employees work in other places as part time worker and several others work from home.
The word Ethics means character, a pattern of behavior of an individual or a group or self-discipline. Therefore, the accepted code of conduct or values within the society is referred as ethics (Carol & Stuart 2005). Ethics are the rules of conduct that individuals or a particular group adhere to. We can also define ethics as those things that are important, the ideas, and believe which we hold on and consider, as special Values are measures of integrity which ethical actions can be based on. Individuals and cultures consider values depending on whether they are virtues or vices. For illustration, caring for a sick person is ethical. Values such as honesty, accuracy, truth and integrity are promoted in many organizations. There exists an unwritten rule that promotes and demand that employees and adhere to these values while performing their duties.
The current trend in organizations is an emphasis on business ethics. Organizations take business ethics as a natural part of any doing business, which it adheres to on daily basis. The issues revolving around business ethics are diverse. It includes the interaction of the business with the external world and comes down to how the business deals with customers on a one on one basis. Organizations can have a bad reputation or a good one. All businesses are interested in making money and increasing their profits. However, the way a business conducts itself in this process brings up the issue of ethical behavior. Businesses, therefore, strive to have a good reputation.
What factors are there to be considered that makes a business to be considered ethical or unethical. We must analyze ethical principals and moral problems associated with businesses. The business conduct must begin with the individuals in the organization and extend to the entire organization. Ethical issues thus should reflect the relations between profit maximization and non-economic issues. Therefore, as businesses strive to make maximum profits they should also look into some rules that govern society at large or ethical customs. Businesses should be responsible for business activities that go beyond profit making.
Many people experience the desire to seek and respond to God. Employees with these experiences also wish that issues of spirituality be included at the workplace. They insist that as their intelligence is welcomed at the workplace; their spirituality should also receive similar treatment (Conger, 1994). Human beings marvel at spiritual experiences and would love to share these experiences regardless of where they are. They take the time to reflect on spiritual issues to enhance their understanding of God.
At the workplace, they express spirituality for personal support and to enable them to make ethical decisions. In the workplace, they may require the management to provide a room for their regular meetings. The meetings might take place during lunch hour or any convenient time when they are not working. In these meetings, most of the services begin with some quite time for reflection followed by prayers. Spirituality at the workplace is also spread by a desire to serve fellow employees. They believe that work is a spiritual path. It offers an opportunity to organize oneself and contribute back to society.
The role of work is changing throughout the world because of the economic and social conditions. Traditionally, employees worked to survive. Today, work has evolved and employees not only work for to survive but also to gain personal satisfaction (Russell, 2010). Ethical obligation requires an organization or individual to act in a manner that will benefit the society. Organizations may feel this urge and in response act in a passive way or in an active manner. Actions in a passive manner include disengaging in activities, which harm the society. They may also be active and perform activities that promote social aims. Many organizations involve their employees in such activities. The involvement of employees in social work enables them to attain personal satisfaction. Work-life programs enable attainment of professional and personal goals.
How Gens X and Y are changing the workplace
The age structure of the workplace is changing rapidly. The older generation who are aged between 45 and 64 years remain in employment longer. Gen X, who are aged between 30 and 44 years take new roles in the workplace. Gen Y-aged between 15 and 29 years are also entering the workforce in great numbers. They embark on their careers in a progressively more multigenerational workplace. They are characterized by their ability to switch careers so easily (Rossi, 2001). They are high performers and require high maintenance to retain. They are thus a challenge to organizations, which desire to recruit and retain them.
They do not respond to the command and control style of management. As organizations move towards flattening their structures, through team-based collaboration. Workers from these generations tend to interact more. Gen X and Gen Y have different views on work-life balance, especially in the following areas. On manageability, Gen X feels that Gen Y is difficult to manage. Gen X believes that they require more supervision since most of them do not follow procedures. They also believe that Gen Y is also less result oriented.
Gen Y is rapidly reforming the workplace. They have the "speak your mind philosophy" and are not scared to confront the status quo. They are creative and think independently. These new entrants into the workplace are technologically and financially well-informed. They do not believe that there is actually a line between work and home, they believe of doing useful and meaningful work regardless of where they are.
Stress and work-life balance
Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) in Arlington, Virginia conducted a research, which showed that stress-related disability claims have increased more than in the last one year. Over 70% of people who visit physicians complain of stress (Williams, 2004). Mr. Steven Sauter, head of the Applied Psychology and Ergonomics said, "the workplace has become the single greatest source of stress". Both stress and ergonomic stresses cause Neuroskeletal disorder, which is directly related to work. The increase of stress at the workplace has caused the human resource department to incorporate motivation in their programs to assist in increasing employees' performance.
There are two commonly used motivational theories that are in organizations to motivate employees. The first one is the X-Y theory, which was developed by McGregor in1960 and the second, is the Equity theory. McGregor's theory deals with how people are perceived, treated, and how such treatment influences their performance. He divided people into two groups; one group includes people who have a positive view of their jobs, other people and even themselves. The other group is the exact opposite of the first one; it includes people with a negative view of things. Be it the job that they are involved in, other people and themselves.
McGregor postulated two sets of assumptions about human nature. People who have a positive perception of everything do their work naturally, they enjoy working. They use their natural abilities since they are motivated. They liken work to play. In an organization, they work with others and are normally part of a team. On the other hand, people with negative attitudes need constant supervision at work. They are incompetent and work but feeling that it would be better if they were somewhere else. They are not only self-centered but are always dishonest. They do not care about the organization, have no ambition and their sole motivation comes from money. The application of these theories at the workplace has assisted many employees in the management of stress.