Work culture has changed dramatically in the past fifty years. Not only did the workplace look different than it does now, everything from demographics to values have also changed. Some of these changes have improved work culture, while others have created new concerns. Here we’ll cover the evolution of work culture and how it impacts engagement.
After the second World War, offices were modeled after factories. The goal was to create visibility so that everyone would have to stay productive. It was all about hierarchy. While most were in the open area called the bullpen, the elite were in corner offices, which were seen as status symbols. Soon after, offices took the form of cubicles. Cubicles were supposed to give employees more independence, but instead came to epitomize corporate drudgery. Now, most workplaces have a more open layout. The goal is to create an environment that promotes collaboration over hierarchy. Open layouts have their own drawbacks. The environment is noisier and there are more distractions, which can negatively affect productivity. But for now, open, collaborative workplaces have evolved into the norm.
Fifty years ago, white married men dominated the workplace. Women were present only in small numbers, while discrimination kept many minorities from finding gainful employment. Now, workplaces are much more diverse, both in terms of gender, race, age, and ability. This has had a profound effect on work culture. When women started entering the office culture in large numbers, sexual harassment was rampant and publicly acceptable. Slowly, opinions about sexual harassment shifted. While still common, attitudes have changed, and it is now illegal. Meanwhile, more companies have realized the value of cultural diversity, which is known to increase creativity and employee engagement. We’re also seeing greater variety of skills and languages in the workplace, which is itself an advantage.
Fifty years ago, most people worked five days a week and had nine-to-five jobs. By the 1980s, this stopped being the norm. People were regularly expected to work 60 hours a week. More people were going into the office on weekends and fewer people were taking vacations. Recently there has been another shift in attitude. Major companies have shifted focus back onto work-life balance. Companies realize that working more hours doesn’t make people more productive. Instead, it increases stress, which decreases productivity. Now more people are working from home, overtime is slowly becoming less common, and companies are encouraging employees to take more vacation time.
Much has changed in fifty years. Workplaces have become more diverse, our ideas about ethics have evolved, our priorities have changed, and we have reevaluated work-life balance. As our values change, so will work culture.
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