15 Sep Are your working conditions better now — or worse?
Every year around Labor Day, a slew of surveys and polls are taken to gauge the state of the American worker. One released by the Associated Press earlier this week suggests that most Americans are happy with their jobs (81 percent) and think their pay is fair (71 percenet). But 34 percent say they experience too much work-related stress.
In the spirit of the presidential election season, I thought it might be a good time to adapt the question that is typically raised by the candidate challenging the incumbent: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” In this case, I suggest you ask yourself whether you are better off today than you were twelve months ago. To help this exercise along here are some categories and questions to ponder:
Wages — The general trend for workers in the United States has been flat in gross terms and down when adjusted for inflation. What has the trend line been for your compensation this past year? Is it heading up, flat or edging down?
Benefits — Health-care costs are rising in double digits and many workers and the self-employed are taking it on the chin either by paying more for the same coverage or getting less as companies switch to less generous plans to tamp down cost increases. Have your benefits gotten better or worse, or stayed the same?
Workload — Layoffs continue unabated although at a less frantic pace than last year. Hiring has picked up, but the pace remains tepid. Are you doing more work than before, less or the same?
Learning and development — Spending on training has risen slightly but organizational structures continue to flatten, limiting job mobility within companies. Have you grown in your job this past year? Have you gotten the formal development opportunities you want and need? Have you had enough informal chances to grow and learn?
Workplace — Overall companies continue to streamline and reduce facilities and support services. How has your work environment changed? Has your office space been upgraded or downgraded? Do you have the necessary tools and support to do your job well? How has the workplace culture changed — are staff collaborative and supportive of each other or is the environment one dominated by conflict and competition?
Balance — What is balance, you say? Workers are spending longer hours than ever on the job driven by the brutal competitive environment and the ever-present fear of downsizing and restructuring. How do you feel about the tradeoff you made this year between work and personal priorities? How has work affected your personal life? Has it been for the better or the worse?
So how did you do? Are you one of those people who are happy with their jobs? If you are, consider yourself lucky. Appreciate the job you have and take full advantage of what it has to offer. If you are not pleased with your answers to the questions, now may be a good time to rethink your current position and future prospects. But beware if you are thinking of seeking greener corporate pastures elsewhere. Chances are good you might be jumping from one bad lily pad to another.
Perhaps you may be better off instead trying to find a new pond by striking out on your own as an entrepreneur. Starting a business is risky — there are no guarantees. But for many workers struggling to maintain a satisfactory quality or work and life, becoming an entrepreneur may be the best chance they will get to take charge of their own destiny and create a better future for themselves and their families.
Tony DiRomualdo is a business researcher, writer, and advisor with Next Generation Consulting. He works at the intersection of people, business strategy, and information technology to help companies create a committed and high performance workforce. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.