Economic Perspective: The New Workplace

NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor Dr. Mike Walden working in a recording studio.

MARY WALDEN:

“Today’s program looks at the new workplace. Mike, one of the long-standing issues with work is it’s inflexibility. Traditionally for most jobs, workers had to be on the job at set days and times. Now I understand these rules may be changing. What’s happening and why?”

MIKE WALDEN:

“Well what I’m going to say here doesn’t apply to every job, every industry, but there does seem to be at work a big change in the flexibility of the workforce. I think this has to do with new workers, the Millenials, the iGeners, they were used to a much more flexible society, education, other things, catering to their specific needs.”

“So what we’re seeing in the workforce, again not everywhere, but we’re seeing, for example, workers sharing time off. So for example if you have an emergency, and you need to take care of a child or a parent or something, there’s flexibility there for you to perhaps get a coworker to fill in for you. And that’s just no questions asked. Also businesses are giving workers a set number of hours to take off for those kinds of emergencies.”

“They’re adding services in their businesses like restaurants and gyms and other things. So the whole notion here I think is that there’s a tight labor market, number one, so you have to attract people by what they want to expect in a workforce as well as their wage. And then number two, the new workers that are taking jobs today grew up in a different era, and they expect these flexibilities. They expect them being catered to in some sense so the workforce is changing. It’s going to be very interesting to follow this, and see how pervasive it becomes.”

Mike Walden is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who teaches and writes on personal finance, economic outlook and public policy.

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