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In the future workplace, fewer workers will have full-time, permanent jobs. Part-time and contract work are increasing everywhere as firms demand flexibility and seek to dodge hefty non-wage costs and employment- protection laws. And employees who are not taking their offices home with them or taking over their companies completely often are creating their own employment

Downsizing. Outpacing, Restructuring. However you describe it, the way we work is changing. The idea of a secure, single career is transforming as jobs become a form of apprenticeship leading to ownership or partnership or new directions where small is beautiful and entrepreneurs prosper.

In 1993, Statistics Canada estimated that more than 30% of Canadians with paid jobs were involved in "non-standard work." This included such things as self-employment, contracts, part-time, or anything outside traditional, full-time employment. Some researchers predict that by the turn of the century, 40% of work will be done in home offices.

This isn't a new trend. It's just an existing one that's speeding up. In our electronic world the workplace can be anyplace. A pilot project that started at Royal Insurance Co. of Canada in 1986 resulted in most of its claims adjusters working from their homes by 1992. This style of work is called telecommuting, and more and more firms are encouraging their employees to give it a try.

Bell Canada drafted a telecommuting policy in 1992. It hoped to achieve the benefits others had reported from this new work style, such as increased productivity through fewer distractions and decreased absenteeism. Also in 1992, B.C. Systems, the Crown corporation that provides information technology systems and services to provincial ministries, launched a 10-month pilot program in telecommuting. The project involved 34 employees who either worked part-time at home or at remote locations closer to home. It offered more flexibility to employees, and the company reaped productivity gains from telecommuters' ability to focus on tasks without interruption. As far as the company was concerned that turned into a winning combination from a ... business point of view." It was environmentally sound too by cutting back on the automobile pollution caused by commuting.

Some managers were concerned about their ability to supervise workers from a distance but were happy in the end with higher productivity. Some workers were envious of their telecommuting colleagues, but they liked getting work turned around to them faster by the people working at home. Other concerns were that telecommuting employees would be isolated; they might feel excluded from company social life or lose contact with unions, be forgotten at promotion time, or become workaholics. According to a 1993 survey on telecommuting and other home-based work for the U.S. Small Business Administration, there is little cause for management concern. It concluded that work patterns among telecommuters and non-telecommuters are similar. On average, men spend just over an hour and women just under an hour on lunch, coffee breaks and relaxing during the work day. And, telecommuters have positive attitudes toward their work and do not feel isolated from peers. The report said that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the trend is "an industrial- age management style that depends on direct surveillance and time clocks."

In 1992, Ottawa offered thousands of civil servants the option of working from home linked by telephone and computer to government offices. The project included auditors, computer systems administrators, historical researchers, actuaries, architects, scientists, translators, claims examiners, and word processor operators. In return, the government expected improved effectiveness and morale among employees, an expanded labor pool, and reduced office space and parking requirements.

A year earlier, IBM Canada Ltd. started experimenting with home-based computer workstations and satellite business centers. The company estimated then that the program, called Flexi place, would save about $5.7 million at its Ottawa offices alone over six years. By 1993, about 900 employees were in the program. About half of them worked mainly from home, the rest at customer sites. They are full-time telecommuters with personal computers equipped with modems and high-speed communications lines. Under this arrangement, the company only needs one work space for every four Flexi place workers.

In 1993, the Bank of Montreal saved $165,000 a year in office space alone for its business systems analysis division, where six desks in a small Toronto office served the drop-in needs of 60 employees. With cost savings and motivational possibilities in mind the company is allowing its employees more freedom and flexible working arrangements. This gives them the benefit of self-employment with the security of working for a large corporation. Employees save too in travel, food, and clothing expenses.

Some take their freedom a step further and abandon the corporate structure. They set up a "virtual company," a network of contract workers who assemble for specific jobs and then disperse when the work is done.

The movie industry has worked this way for years. A collection of actors, camera people, makeup artists, and set designers unite for a project, then go their separate ways. Information technology makes it happen in the business world: a telephone, a fax machine, and a computer are the basic components.

In theory, one person could job out everything: someone to make a product, for example; brokers or reps to sell it; an accountant to do the bookwork; a contract laboratory for research and development. The company owner simply co-ordinates it all, and working relationships change with project needs.

As companies cut costs they're turning more to these outside experts. And the number of self-employed people has grown dramatically. By 1995, about two million Canadians held jobs of their own making. That figure has almost doubled since 1976, while paid employment grew by less than 30% in the same time. Between 1990 and 1992, when 385,000 employees lost their jobs, the number of self-employed Canadians increased by 56,000. Between 1992 and 1994, employers hired 240,000 people, a gain of 2.3%. Meanwhile, the ranks of the self-employed grew by 171,000, a gain of 9.4%. The trend has developed partly because the rapid-growth industries, such as business services, don't need large corporations to work. They sell more to other companies than they do to the general public. Computer-service firms, advertising and employment agencies, and the offices of professionals such as lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, and management consultants all may be run independently. This sector accounts for 6% of all jobs in Canada. And 31% of people doing this work are self-employed, compared with 16% for the economy as a whole.

One of the more controversial changes in the workplace is the increase in part-time work. According to a Statistics Canada study, only 61% of Canadians worked the traditional 35- to 40-hour work week in 1994. Compare this with 7 1% two decades earlier. Over the same period, the number of part-timers doubled. Not surprisingly, more people are moonlighting with several part-time jobs to make ends meet economically. Much of the moonlighting is done in the retail trade, hotels and food services, health and social services, and education. (Statistics Canada' s definition of part-time moonlighters is those whose jobs together don't add up to more than 30 hours a week.) By 1993, part-time jobs accounted for almost a quarter of all jobs in Canada, and 35% of them -- 760,000 -- were held by people who said they wanted but could' t find full-time jobs.

At the other end of the pendulum are full-time workers putting in overtime. Statistics Canada reported that, while many people want more work, 14.4% of employees put in 50 hours or more a week in 1993. In addition, up to one million people worked an average of eight hours of overtime for extra pay in any given week. And that, according to the United Steelworkers of America, could translate into tens of thousands of full-time jobs. Hamilton steelworkers alone logged more than one million hours of overtime in 1993. This at a time when hundreds of their laid-off colleagues were desperate to be recalled.

People are driven to work long hours for several reasons. They could be banking money for the possibility of leaner times ahead. They could be protecting themselves from seeing their jobs vanish in a moment to someone willing to work nights and weekends. For white-collar workers, unpaid overtime is essential to compensate for staffing cutbacks. It's accepted because people are afraid of losing their jobs. The bottom line for companies is that it's cheaper to have an employee work overtime than to hire another to share the work, given training and benefit costs.

In December 1994, Ontario's Finance Minister Floyd Laughren agreed that, "Many workers have well-paid, stable jobs, often involving overtime, while others can find only part-time or temporary work. We must find ways to help improve the distribution of work." But governments are not keen to legislate a limit to working time. They would prefer business and labor to negotiate controls voluntarily. Meanwhile, the Canadian Labor Congress (CLC) says unions can do their bit to help spread the available work around. They could negotiate more paid time off the job, shorter work weeks with no reduction in pay, the right to take time off instead of overtime pay, improved paid education leave, and family leave. The CLC argues that such strategies would boost not only jobs but the quality of life too.

In 1993, the Hospital Employees' Union in B.C. averted about 1,000 layoffs by an agreement in the B.C. hospital sector. The deal reduced weekly working hours to 36 hours from 37.5 hours without loss of pay. An extended agreement later covered 5,000 workers in long-term care facilities in the province. The Communications, Energy and Paper workers Union avoided 2,600 layoffs at Bell Canada in 1994. The union agreed to a four-day week, reducing hours to 36 from 38 with a corresponding pay cut. And, when the 13,800 Bell employees were given the option of returning to the old five-day, 38-hour week, 92% said no thanks. So, experiments with flexible hours, four-day work weeks, sabbaticals, job sharing, and early retirement are driven largely by employers wanting to cut costs without cutting staff. But, in part, the new arrangements relieve the pressure on stressed-out workers.


1. Algoma Steel Inc. in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, underwent a dramatic restructuring in 1992 when managers and workers took over the company as major shareholders. The country's third-largest steelmaker was in for some big changes if it was going to survive. Workers took a substantial cut in pay and benefits to save millions of dollars. Layoffs and an early retirement plan were designed to chop 1,600 jobs by 1996. Government loans helped a lot too. Critics say this approach is nothing more than a giant make-work project and a drain on taxpayers. Others dispute that closing such a large operation would trigger huge social service costs and hit the local economy too hard, and that the new co-operative spirit that comes into play in a crisis of this sort will win in the end. Research the Algoma program, or a similar local situation, and discuss whether or not employee ownership is a good way to keep companies afloat.

2. In 1993, Statistics Canada reported that more than 42% of people retiring earlier than planned did so because of the economy, compared with 28% during the 1987-89 period. During the 1990-92 recession, 211,000 Canadians retired earlier than they had planned. Company incentives or plant closings were most Often the cause. Some people have suggested lowering the mandatory retirement age to 60 as a way of opening up more jobs, particularly for young people. Discuss the pros and cons of this idea.


Benefits -- pension, dental coverage, etc. -- alone can account for about one-third of payroll costs.


Taylor, Linda E., Flexible workstyles.(New Economy - The Workplace). Vol. 60, Canada and the World Backgrounder, 03-01-1995, pp 20(5).


[Workaholics] || [MOTHER KNOWS BEST] || [Balancing business & baby] || [at-home moms] || [Home Work] || [Flexible work styles] || [The Happy Home Office] || [Teleworking]


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