Limitless work on the rise
The boundary between work and private life is getting more and more blurred.
SWEDEN: "Borderless" work is a reality for many of Unionen's members. Some see the trend in work and time organization as positive but having to be available at any time can be stressful, as revealed in a recent survey of the IMF Swedish affiliate Unionen representing non-manual workers.
The new communication tools and digital media have opened the way to even more flexible time regimes in working life. It is becoming more difficult for individuals to set limits to work and mark a clear distinction between work and private life. The standardized pattern of the normal working week and regulated overtime is no longer the rule. This is particularly true for those involved in projects or occasional teamwork with different working methods and objectives and operating in different companies and countries. Occasional teamwork is becoming increasingly common in today's labour market as a response to companies' pressure for more flexibility and adjustment to shifting customer demand.
Over half of the respondents to the survey reported a lack of feedback and guidance from their boss, which is felt as a disadvantage when they have to deal with critical situations. Having clear deadlines for completing an assignment is seen as an advantage and enables better time planning. A large degree of self-determination and autonomy in work organization is good as long as resources are available in the form of time, knowledge and empowerment. The lack thereof can lead to greater tension and higher stress levels.
Although many white-collar workers are happy with their job, a growing number among them feel stressed or express dissatisfaction with their professional growth. The workplace and the working hours are likely to encroach more and more on home life in future. Time awareness is therefore taking on increased importance as is the issue of work-life balance. It is up to the individual worker to take responsibility for managing her/his own time and workload.
For Unionen these developments mean a number of challenges:
- Employers have responsibility for providing a safe work environment, and the workload should be reasonable;
- Employers are responsible for working time and must make sure that legislation concerning working hours and collective agreements are complied with;
- Employees must have more control over and influence on their work situation and get feedback from their direct bosses. With increased self-determination and availability, other forms of leadership are required;
- Employees should have enough resources to be able to perform their tasks properly.
The study "Fria eller förvirrade", available in Swedish only, can be downloaded from Unionen's website at: https://www.unionen.se
Jan 18, 2010 – Anne-Marie Mureau