Formality in the workplace has been in retreat for decades. It can seem difficult to believe that work colleagues used to address each other as "Mr" or "Miss". Even the phrase "white-collar worker" to denote anyone in a non-manual job seems outdated, and dress-down Fridays have given way to dress-down everyday in workplaces across the UK.
This can lead to difficulties between staff and employers in knowing where formalities can be discarded and when they need to be strictly followed for business reasons.
For Ben Booth, IT director of research group Mori and one of the judges of the Best Places to Work in IT 2005 awards, getting the right balance of formality and informality is one of the major human resource challenges facing employers and staff.
"In a growing business we have to balance an informal way of working, which is liked by staff, with the demands for more formal systems of quality control," he said. "Of course, there is also the challenge to do more with resources which are growing at less than the speed of business growth."
Flexibility is an increasing important issue, said Booth. "The pace of business change continues to accelerate and this requires employees to be ever more flexible. At the same time there is considerably more emphasis on flexible working and this needs to be facilitated in a way that provides a win for employer and employee."
Meeting these challenges in a way that satisfies both groups pays dividends in terms of the health of the business. As Booth pointed out, "The working environment is the key to a happy and productive workforce."
The judging panel
The members of the judging panel for Best Place to Work in IT2005 combine the best of business, IT and employment expertise. They include:
- British Computer Society - With a membership of more than 42,000 (and rising fast), the BCS is the leading professional and learned society in the field of computers and IT.
- Communications Management Association - The UK's premier business communications user association represents individuals who have responsibility for or manage communications systems. Members are drawn from the ranks of the top 1,000 UK organisations.
- IT Directors Network - This social, networking club for heads of IT (or equivalent) was formed more than 18 months ago. Co-founders Roger Ellis and Julie Loveday have had a long association with the IT industry.
- E-Skills UK - The industry body responsible for articulating and acting on the IT skills needs of UK employers.
- National Computer Centre - The independent membership and research organisation whose mission is to promote the more effective use of information technology.
- UK Oracle User Group - An organisation that provides an independent voice for corporations and individuals using Oracle products and technologies in the UK and Ireland.