Recession’s Influence on Working Habits

During times of recession the way business is conducted changes drastically. Given the current economic climate, Lynda Gratton—a professor from the London Business School—wonders what working habits will emerge now?

The 1981-82 recession heralded the end of the notion of a “job for life”. Jobs and careers would never be the same. The mantra following the 1980s recession was that of the “free agent”. The relationship between employees and employer was described as moving from “parent-child” to “adult-adult”; flexible working was increasingly seen as a viable option and only the deluded thought they had a job for life. This is increasingly seen as the norm, bringing despair to some and a sense of liberation to others.

The recession of 1990-91 accelerated these changes while adding one more important dimension – that of globalisation. Costs were cut by moving work out of the developed countries into the labour markets of the emerging nations such as India and eastern Europe. What began as the exodus of low-cost work accelerated over the next 10 years into the globalisation of talent in sectors such as information technology and research.

So what impact will the current recession have on work over the next decade? Of course, these trends are easy to spot in hindsight – more difficult when you are in the midst of the downturn. But there are enough clues for us to make a guess.