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Analysing changes

Analysing changes in employment patterns and practices

The only additional responsibility placed on HL students in this section is that you must not only be able to describe changes in employment patterns and practices, but be able to analyse the reasons for these changes. These changes have been included throughout the core, but need to be collected together to form the foundations of an excellent HL examination answer.

The changes have taken place because they have advantages for:


  • In an increasingly competitive business environment, flexible work practices help firms react quickly and effectively to changes in their external environments
  • By reducing the core workforce, organisations can cut costs because they have fewer long term legal responsibilities, use their resources more efficiently and reduce overtime levels
  • Reduces requirements for office space
  • Non-core activities can be outsourced to specialist firms who may well produce better quality outcomes
  • Research indicates that flexible workers are more productive, more reliable and more loyal than their office based counterparts.
  • Firms can recruit and retain qualified staff who may not be able to work traditional hours and therefore address skill shortages
  • Work patterns which can accommodate variations in customer demand patterns
  • Creates a better sense of personal responsibility


  • Improves the work-life balance of the individual
  • Eliminates or reduces the inconvenience of commuting, saving a significant amount of wasted time and money as well as reducing stress
  • Allows the individual to schedule non-work activities around work commitments, such as childcare
  • Reduced interruptions may mean the individual can concentrate better on the job
  • Possible portfolio working options, increasing individual stimuli
  • Recent research has shown there are health benefits to flexible working where employees rather than employers have control over the hours worked

However, in the analysis, it is necessary to consider some of the drawbacks of flexible working. These may be more specific to certain modes of employment, such as factors applicable to part-time working that may not apply to other methods such as homeworking.


  • Irregular use of people reduces effectiveness of communications
  • Flexibility may make it more difficult to build teams
  • Problems of co-ordination and consistency
  • Lack of control over the work practices of the employee or contractor
  • In part-time employment in particular, there is the possibility of increased labour turnover
  • Scheduling work rotas is more time consuming for managers
  • Can encourage time watching
  • Full time employees may be resentful of the freedom experienced by peripheral workers


  • Lack of job security and so difficult to plan financial commitments, creating personal stress
  • In recessionary periods flexible workers will be the first group of employees to lose their jobs
  • Fewer benefits, such as sickness pay, pension contributions
  • Fewer social opportunities and possible isolation
  • Requirement to upgrade personal skills which can be costly and time consuming - reducing work opportunities