Changing Working Patterns

How companies achieve flexibility to meet new needs

Atkinson J, Meager N |   | National Economic Development Office | Nov 1985

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In 1985, the National Economic Development Office together with the Department of Employment commissioned the Institute of Manpower Studies to carry out a major study of changing working patterns and practices in four important sectors of the economy - engineering, food and drink manufacturing, retail distribution and financial services.

The aim was to assess the nature, extent and underlying rationale of the changes in working patterns and practices that have been taking place, and to consider their implications for the competitiveness of British industry.

The researchers found that widespread changes in working practices had been introduced by companies in recent years. These changes have been designed to improve competitiveness by increasing productivity and facilitating technological change; and to allow companies to respond more flexibly to changing market conditions. The study identifies and analyses conceptually the different forms of flexibility which companies have sought to introduce, particularly in 'numerical' terms (for example the use of part-time and temporary workers) and in 'functional' terms (for example multi-skilling). Together they can allow companies to fit more precisely the demand for labour to its supply, improve productivity and the use of capital equipment, reduce overtime and encourage employees to acquire further skills.

This report is available as a pdf scan of the printed paper report.