Nice work... if you can get it

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The Independent Online
AUTONOMY, variety and the chance to work in a team that gets things done are the major satisfactions of working life, according to a new survey. Frustrations with management and heavy workloads with tight deadlines cause the biggest headaches.

The Management Agenda, published for the first time this year, is intended to be an annual check on management issues, covering areas such as flexibility of working practices, the effects of mergers, strategic leadership and the balance between working and home life.

Drawing on the experiences of workers in organisations of every size - 161 in all - the report found that the majority of companies are in growth mode. At the same time, many are rapidly shedding layers and becoming leaner, flatter and more hungry.

Companies that have gone through change are finding that people aged between 20 and 40, often middle managers, are more likely to feel negative about what is happening than their older colleagues. Communication was seen by many as the key to successful adjustment, but respondents reported that motivating a team after change takes place was often the biggest challenge.

One of the most significant findings was that employees are growing less and less willing to tolerate a situation in which more work and more stress are doled out, while the tantalising prospect of a happy and relaxed family life is snatched away.

"Organisational value statements remain 'hot air' without employee-friendly policies and management behaviour to back them up. There is a strong sense that employers demand as much as employees are able to give - and maybe more.

"Ironically, 65 per cent of respondents report that their home life has a positive effect on their work life, enabling them to cope, but over half say work has a damaging effect on their home life," says the report's authors Caroline Glynn and Linda Holbeche.

"People who feel able to cope apparently experience greater job satisfaction as a result of the sense of achievement they gain. But it seems people are starting to question whether success is worthwhile at any price and some of our respondents are in a quandary as to how to maintain career progression and not jeopardise their home life."

The report reveals that other research into international leadership shows that employees have become less willing to take on overseas assignments precisely because of that reason.

One possible solution, which the report shows is already being considered by forward-thinking companies, is to introduce more flexible - and in some cases part-time - working hours.

By 2006, runs one forecast, more than 30 per cent of employees will be working part-time. But the report points out that administrative and clerical workers - especially those in the retail and public services sectors - are likely gain more flexibility than professional staff.

The report also highlights the fact that as employees build up their skills bases and are encouraged to take responsibility for developing their own careers, they are inevitably tempted by better offers of employment. Forty per cent of respondents said that their biggest dilemma was whether or not to leave their company for another.

But the report reveals that innovations such as 360-degree feedback - in which an employee may be assessed by peers and customers - are catching on and giving employees more faith in their value. Nearly all those who responded said that feedback was accurate and had caused them to act differently.

The Roffey Park Management Agenda costs pounds 25, tel: 01293 854038.