Can I bring my emotional support animal to work?
Employee Expectations are changing, do you know what is important and what the deal breakers are for your employees and prospective employees when it comes to their workplace experience?
There’s a trend on TikTok at the moment, where creators share the responses to common or highly unusual questions that relate to their hobby or job. The questions appear in captions whilst they have a jolly dance around underneath, to the tune of ‘Happiness’ by Alexis Jordan.
The one that interested me featured, I assume, a recruitment specialist and interviewer. Their ‘common questions, which they wanted to share with the public, came from ‘Gen Z’. These questions were:
- Can I bring my emotional support animal to work?
- Do you have a gender-neutral bathroom?
- Do I really have to work 40 hours a week?
No doubt, this TikTok video was intended to be entertaining; however, I can imagine these questions have been asked at some point in an interview somewhere, and most likely by the age group mentioned.
This article is in no way meant to poke fun at the concerns of younger team members—concerns that are just as valid as questions around salary and the location of a role/whether it’s remote.
My point is that time moves on and society continually progresses. The expectations our parents had when applying for a job are bound to be very different to the ones candidates have now.
For example, flexible working wasn’t anywhere near as big a deal for both job-seekers and employers before the pandemic, yet it’s a consideration, if not a feature, of practically every vacancy in 2022. Gender-neutral bathrooms aren’t just examples of ‘wokeness’—they’re the product of a more open society, where people who consider themselves to be different to the traditional male/female can express themselves authentically—with provisions and considerations that better meet their needs, such as when they need the loo.
See the role through the eyes of your employees
It’s been said that the job market is currently a candidate one. Various strikes across the country are a sign that what is expected of employees will no longer be accepted by them (the situation isn’t all down to a lack of foreign labour and Brexit). Whether you’re hiring someone, or you simply want to get the best out of your current employees, it will serve you well to see their role from their point of view
Consider the following, for example:
- Who do they work closely with, and how are these relationships on a day-to-day basis?
- How does their role complement their life overall and is there the level of flexibility they’d expect with the role?
- Are they appropriately skilled/qualified for the work they’re expected to carry out?
- Do they feel that they have enough autonomy in their job?
- Do they feel supported by management?
- Is the culture of your workplace one that welcomes suggestions and innovation–even whistle-blowing?
- Are they appropriately compensated?
- Do they feel safe to turn up as their authentic self?
These are the biggies before you drill down further to bathroom provision and support animals.
I’ve said this before: the old dictatorship approach to leadership and management will not wash today. People don’t live to work, they work to live.
Career Hoarding – a growing option for many employees
Another thing of interest recently was an article I read on career-hoarding. Apparently, such is the need for flexibility for some people—and also because they don’t want to be confined to one role—there’s been a huge rise in people creating full-time work through the gig economy or via a plethora of separate roles that each require just a few hours a week—think consultancy, coaching, facilitator, social support, etc. For small companies looking to get back on their feet after the upheaval of the last few years, employing someone for a few hours/days a week is much less risky than taking on a full-timer. Compressed hours and job-sharing have also widened up the talent pool for companies struggling to recruit.
As for the employee, there are some huge benefits that can come from this way of working. Yes, it does take a lot of organisation and juggling, but it’s incredibly rewarding to feed more than one of your professional passions. Not having all your eggs in one basket, financially, is also very empowering and offers a level of security. If one job fails, for example, it doesn’t have as much of an impact on your ability to pay your bills if you’re earning in other employments, too. It can also help with stress levels. If one role is becoming overbearing, you only have to stomach it for a few hours a week. And as for autonomy levels, this kind of set-up will undoubtedly help you feel like you’re steering your own ship, that you’re almost fully in control of your destiny.
Clearly, these benefits are becoming more and more common, and more and more desirable. Statistics surrounding the gig economy are going through the roof; so much so that it’s coined the term I mentioned earlier: career-hoarding.
It’s time for employers to adapt
I’m not saying that every employer has to start dissecting their roles into four-hour chunks for an array of employees, nor am I saying that there are no downsides from having more than one concurrent position. The point I’m making is that UK Plc has to change how it looks at roles, working practices, employee expectations, pay structures and flexible working arrangements. The latter is no longer the term used for a mum looking to work during school hours—flexible working encompasses a wide range of considerations nowadays. From where someone works, to how they expect to get on with the job; whether the company they work for has an ‘hours worked’ culture or if the role centres on results and productivity, with flexibility on how and when these are achieved.
All of this comes down to understanding your workforce. Including the Gen Zs, who may be concerned with elements of a role that may never have crossed your mind before. It doesn’t matter if you think their question is ‘woke’ or whether you agree with their approach or attitude or not—this won’t lessen the problem for them. By not seeing an issue from the other person’s point of view, you risk shutting off sections of the talent pool in an already competitive job market.
The working world is very different to how it was just ten years ago. It will never change back to the one you feel more comfortable with—it will only ever move forward. Employers, leaders and managers have to understand and create a new working culture, they need to meet the new expectations of employees, to adapt to modern ways of working. The pandemic has brought about a LOT of change, but these changes were always going to happen in the name of progress—Covid just brought everything forward.
Gen Z is not the enemy. Candidates looking for (or even expecting) flexible working arrangements are not the enemy either. It’s time for employers to adapt if they want to stay in business.
We don’t have to look too far to see the impact upon employers of not adapting, the media is full of headlines and reports about the challenges employers are facing in filling vacancies, details of employee unrest and strike action. Do you have unfilled vacancies? Are you struggling to attract new talent?
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