What is the impact of change at work?

Last updated: 13 Sep 2019

Change at work can lead to a number of different issues within the workforce. These can harm people’s health, wellbeing and security. They can also have a negative impact on the business and organisation if they are not managed effectively.

Job insecurity

For most people, the notion of lifetime job security has long gone. Many employees now on new forms of employment contract, having been subject to privatisation or outsourcing. These include individual contracts, replacing collective with personal bargaining.

Work intensification

Work intensification arises when job losses and automation mean increasing workloads and added pressures for the staff who remain. Any ‘survivor’ knows, it’s not just the changes in staffing levels, it’s also the loss of expertise, experience and corporate memory, not to mention the departure of our colleagues and friends. For many, working excessive hours has become the norm, typically without compensation (time-off in lieu or overtime) and social support.

Monitoring and surveillance

More than half of British employees report that a computerised system logs or records their work. Nearly a quarter say this information is used to check their performance. Again, the tendency is to work excessive hours. But another impact is on worker autonomy as employees feel increasingly ‘controlled’ by their employer.

‘Flexible’ work practices and patterns

Technology has enabled employers to introduce greater “flexibility” in working practices, such as remote or home-based work. However, for many employees this has meant working in greater isolation with little management consideration of the impact of lone working.

Unions regard flexibility as referring to working hours that can be freely chosen. This is positive for employees who have a say, within boundaries, over their working hours as it enables them to reconcile work and non-work activities. Irregular or variable working patterns are mostly negative for people’s wellbeing, especially if employee autonomy is low.

Work-life balance

Change can spill over into private life with the potential for work-life conflict and adverse effects on wellbeing. There are also factors such as increased drinking or smoking during periods of stress that result in a higher risk of illness.