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Good work: finding a definition that works for everyone

Published 22nd November 2017 by Investors in People
Good work written on blackboard with smiley face

The Taylor Review, commissioned by the UK government, looked at the opportunities for work available in society and made recommendations for reform to ensure that everyone - regardless of what work they do - enjoys certain rights and opportunities.

This is a difficult task because these rights and opportunities have to transcend not only the vastly different structures of work in society but also our preferences as individuals: what may be viewed as an opportunity to some may not be to others, depending on life circumstances.

The review recognised this, noting that “different people will have different motivations” when it comes to work. For some workers, the gig economy may suit them because they are able to sacrifice job security for flexibility. Others may want increased job security and therefore choose permanent positions.

Because of this, no form of work should be thought of as inherently good or inherently bad. Each one is simply a different way of working, with strengths and weaknesses. But what is clear is that there’s significant growth in the breadth of work opportunities available to us. One report, for example, found that 43% of American workers will be in the gig economy by 2020.

Across society, no matter where or how we work, what constitutes good work?

Faced with this growth and the choices we’ll have to make, how do we decide what opportunities might work for us and which don’t suit our needs? This question is at the heart of the Taylor Review: across society, no matter where or how we work, what constitutes good work?

To answer this, we must look at everything from financial security, to enshrined legal rights to redress grievances and the right to statutory sick pay to flexible working arrangements, opportunities to improve wellbeing, work-life balance, management and leadership and much more. We must define what we as individuals need to thrive and then take action to ensure we have the same rights, regardless of how we choose to work.

That action can take various forms. From legislation to positive working relationships with unions, an educated workforce, stronger career transition support throughout society and progressive corporate governance, there’s lots we must do to ensure everyone enjoys work that’s fit for the 21st century.

The Taylor Review itself concludes with a seven-point plan for reforms and ideals to strengthen and stabilise the rights and opportunities of UK workers, across new and old ways of working. These include giving people attainable ways to strengthen their future work prospects, taking a much more proactive approach to workplace health and improving management capability and employment relations within organisations.

What may be viewed as an opportunity to some may not be to others, depending on life circumstances and need.

At Investors in People, we cover trends in people management that we believe contribute to work that is good for everyone. If you’re an HR professional looking to make work better, take a look at our articles on how to make flexible working work for everyone, how employee voice contributes to positive employment relations and how job crafting can help workers mould their jobs to suit their motivations.

Change is a constant in the modern world and new forms of working will emerge. The more we push the boundaries in what makes work good and as a society decide what place work should have in our lives, the more we will be able to ensure everyone has access to the same rights and opportunities, wherever they work and whatever their future holds.

For more information on the current rights of people working in the gig economy and in other forms of work, please contact Acas on 0300 123 1100.