19 Workplace Norms That Wouldn’t Be Accepted Today

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By Darryl Henderson

Many aspects of the workplace irk the modern employee, yet it’s safe to say that things have greatly improved compared to the past. These are 19 workplace norms that used to be tolerated but would most definitely not be accepted today.

Lack of Work-Life Balance

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It used to be that long working hours were the norm and that the weekend was the only time families could spend time together. Now, an increasing number of people want healthier working hours. Forbes attributes the increased focus on work-life balance to “the dominating presence of millennials in the workforce.”

Lack of Diversity

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Offices and workplaces used to be primarily filled with Caucasian people—and all men, at that. Nowadays, diversity is not only the norm but is also actively encouraged by employers who want a more accepting workplace. It’s now illegal to discriminate based on race.

Smoking in the Office

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As we know, smoking in public places used to be legal, but a lot has changed in recent years. The office or workplace was one of the most common places to find someone lighting up a cigarette while doing their job. For our health, it’s a good thing this is no longer accepted.

Focus on Conformity

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One aspect of the traditional workplace used to be that managers were actively hired, and the rest of the workplace conformed to being followers. Now that conformity isn’t encouraged, more employers encourage innovative thinking from individuals and more collaborative efforts, with everyone getting a say.

Being Forced to Retire

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Previously, those reaching the retirement age of 65 would have to take mandatory retirement. That’s no longer the case. A sad reality of this day and age is that many people can’t afford to retire even if they want to. The Guardian explains that planned retirement finances simply haven’t matched the rising costs of living.

Forced Fun

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Some of us still dread that office Christmas party, yet traditionally, fun was even more mandatory. Bosses would come up with social ideas like company picnics to enforce fun. These days, workplaces put more focus on company culture and how the employees themselves would like to relax.

Women’s Roles as Homemakers

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It used to be that women were rare in workplaces, as they would take care of the home while the men went to work. Needless to say, that’s all changed. The mid-to-late 1900s saw more women propelled into workplace positions, and the traditional homemaker role was ignored by career-focused women.

Departments and Hierarchical Structures

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Traditional workplaces had many different departments segregated from one another and a clear hierarchy. This often meant that most people didn’t speak with each other or that messages to certain people would have to go through a specific chain of command. These days, working is more open-plan and collaborative.

Less Accessibility for the Disabled

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Workplaces were never as accessible as they are now. There wasn’t a focus or requirement for workplaces to accommodate disabled people. Nowadays, accessibility is the law for businesses, and employers are also encouraged to diversify the workplace by offering equal opportunities to all.

Expecting to Work for the Same Company All Your Life

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It used to be that employees spent the majority of their lives at the same company. They would find the job young and spend the next 20 or 30 years working there. Nothing could be more different in the modern age. Employees are constantly on the lookout for better opportunities or taking short-term positions.

Lack of Remote Working Opportunities

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Due to the lack of internet, physically going to the workplace every day used to be the only option. In modern times, more people are choosing to work remotely, and more employers are seeing the benefit of it. According to Business News Daily, remote workers “report decreased stress levels,” too.

Acceptance of Sexual Harassment

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When workplaces and offices were dominated by men, women would often bear the brunt of sexist or offensive words directed at them. Not to mention that many women were faced with physical harassment. These days, there is a bigger focus on stopping sexual harassment in the workplace, including laws against it.

Casual Fridays

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For most of us, Casual Friday is simply every day because we’re working from home or because modern workplaces invite a more casual dress code. Yet traditionally, workplaces enforced specific clothing restrictions or had more formality with officewear. This meant ‘Casual Friday’ was actually a big deal.

Lack of Employee Benefit Packages

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Many modern jobs offer employee benefit packages on top of a set salary. These could include paid vacation time, dental plans, or retirement support. Now an accepted requirement—and even a legal one in some workplaces—this never used to be the case. Employees only ever expected the base salary.

Limited Mental Health Support

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Mental health awareness has increased exponentially in recent years. It used to be that speaking up about these struggles wasn’t an option. Harvard Business Review states that in recent years, support for mental health has gone “from a nice-to-have to a true business imperative.”

9-5 Hours Were the Only Option

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Flexible hours are one aspect of employment that most people prioritize. The rise of flexible working is owed to a bigger focus on a healthy routine. Flexible hours never used to be an option, and working 9 am to 5 pm was the norm. To top this off, many workers were also expected to work overtime.

No Training or Development for Employees

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If employers expected you to learn new skills or needed you to train for a position, they expected you to do that during your own downtime. Nowadays, an increased number of businesses are putting focus on employee training and development supported by their own time and funding.

No Paid Leave

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A lack of paid leave used to be problematic for many in the workplace, but it was the accepted routine. Workers would drag themselves into work when they were sick because they couldn’t afford to take the day off. These days, paid leave is accepted for vacations, personal days, and sick days.

Corner Offices and Cubicles Only

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In an office workplace, every worker having their own individual cubicle was the done thing. Managers would have their own offices with doors closed when they wanted them to be. These days, open-plan layouts are the go-to. Businesses encourage socializing and collaboration between all workers, and managers will often sit in the same workspace.

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