A work-life balance for all?
By Will Hutton for CNN
Will Hutton says workers will have to balance caring for children for caring with aging parents.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Work-life balance is becoming increasingly important: 2020 will see a high premium placed on the ability to combine paid work with other activities and a workplace that runs on flexibility.
Three trends are reinforcing the importance of work-life balance.
The first is increasing competition. Markets are becoming increasingly competitive, requiring businesses to have cost-effective individualized products.
This changes the way businesses operate, requiring more networked organizations that rely on employee relationships with suppliers and customers in order to compete.
Second, the UK's demographics are changing. The workplace is becoming older, more female and more ethnically diverse.
This means that the 'two for one' offer in the workplace is almost over. Employers can no longer rely on employing one person, usually a man, and getting one person, usually his wife or mother, free.
The labor force in 2020 is likely to be half female, with most households running on dual incomes through necessity.
This raises the question of who manages the 'life' issues, from childcare through to broken boilers and housework.
The aging population also makes it more and more likely that individuals will be 'sandwiched' between the demands of elderly parents as well as young children.
And it means that we will all be working for longer.
These demographic shifts mean all of us are likely to want flexibility at different points in our working lives, depending on our individual circumstances.
This is the third reason for the growing profile of work-life balance as an issue: we want more of it. People want to spend more time with their children. They want to have time outside paid work.
With technology facilitating different ways of working, these growing aspirations provide a catalyst for change.
Yet by 2020 the concern is that these aspirations will only be realized for part of the working population.
For some, the workplace will have rethought career structures to allow space for time out and people will have substantial control over where, how and when they work.
There may be others, however, for whom work-life balance is a distant dream as they carry out jobs that have existed for decades -- caring for the elderly, cleaning the streets or working in retail.
People will value work-life balance even more in 2020 than today. The question is, will 2020 see a balance between the needs of lower and of higher paid workers for flexibility in their working lives?
-- Will Hutton is the chief executive of the Work Foundation and author of The State We're In.
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