Workplace Norms from the 70s That Would Be Unthinkable Today
The 1970s was a transformative decade in many ways, with significant cultural, political, and technological shifts. However, when it comes to the workplace, many of the norms from that era would be considered outdated, if not downright inappropriate, by today’s standards. Let’s take a nostalgic trip back in time and explore some of these once-accepted practices that would raise eyebrows in the modern office.
Table of Contents
In the 1970s, the sight of a cloud of smoke in office corridors wasn’t unusual. Ashtrays weren’t just household items; they were office essentials. Employees would casually light up cigarettes during meetings, brainstorming sessions, or even during a casual chat by the coffee machine. Elevators weren’t spared either, often filled with a smoky haze. This was a time before the extensive research on the dangers of secondhand smoke became mainstream. Fast forward to today, and the very idea seems absurd. With stringent laws and a broader understanding of health implications, indoor smoking in public spaces, especially workplaces, is largely prohibited worldwide.
Lack of Diversity and Inclusion
The corporate ladder in the 70s had a predictable pattern – predominantly male and overwhelmingly white, especially at the top echelons. Boardrooms lacked diverse voices, and leadership roles for women and people of color were the exception, not the norm. Fast forward to today, and while challenges remain, there’s a global movement emphasizing the importance of diverse representation in workplaces. Companies now recognize the value of diverse perspectives, leading to more inclusive hiring practices and corporate policies.
Casual Sexism and Harassment
The 70s office culture was rife with casual sexism. From offhand comments to blatant objectification, such behaviors were often dismissed as “office banter.” Women faced an uphill battle for respect and recognition, with the feminist movement fighting tooth and nail against deep-rooted patriarchal norms. Today, the narrative has shifted significantly. With stringent laws, corporate policies, and a societal shift towards gender equality, sexist behaviors are less tolerated and can lead to severe repercussions.
Rigid Dress Codes
The 70s office attire was a reflection of formality and convention. Men donned suits, often complete with ties, while women navigated a complex web of sartorial expectations, from skirt lengths to appropriate necklines. The idea of “casual Fridays” or wearing sneakers to work was far from reality. Contrast this with today’s flexible dress codes, where comfort often goes hand-in-hand with professionalism, and it’s clear how much has changed.
Lack of Technological Integration
The 70s office was a world without the convenience of modern technology. Memos were typed on typewriters, communication was largely face-to-face or over landline phones, and the idea of video conferencing or remote work was the stuff of science fiction. Today, technology is intertwined with our work lives. From laptops to collaboration tools, the modern workplace is a hub of digital innovation, allowing for flexibility and efficiency.
No Focus on Work-Life Balance
In the 70s, work often took precedence over personal life. Long hours were a badge of honor, and the concept of work-life balance was nascent at best. Today, there’s a growing emphasis on mental well-being, personal time, and the importance of a balanced life. Companies now offer flexible hours, wellness programs, and more to ensure employees are at their best, both personally and professionally.
The 70s workplace was characterized by a top-down approach to communication. Information was often guarded, and open dialogue between different levels of hierarchy was rare. Today, the walls have come down, both literally and figuratively. Open office spaces, transparent communication channels, and a focus on collaboration define the modern workplace.
Limited Legal Protections
The 70s saw workers navigating their careers with limited legal safeguards. From workplace safety to discrimination, many of the protections we take for granted today were still in their infancy. Over the decades, labor laws have evolved, offering workers enhanced protection and rights, ensuring safer and more equitable workplaces.
The 70s office was far from green. Recycling was a novel concept, and sustainability wasn’t on the corporate agenda. Today, with the pressing realities of climate change, companies are integrating eco-friendly practices, from recycling programs to green energy solutions, making sustainability a core business principle.
Traditional 9-5 Structure
The 9-5 grind was the hallmark of the 70s work culture. Fixed timings, with little room for flexibility, defined the workday. Today’s work environment offers a stark contrast. With the advent of the gig economy, remote work, and a focus on results over hours, employees now have greater autonomy over their schedules, leading to a more dynamic and adaptable work culture.
While the 70s had its own charm and unique culture, many of its workplace norms were a reflection of the times and societal values. Today’s office environment, shaped by decades of progress and change, offers a more inclusive, flexible, and employee-centric approach.
This article was originally published on STEM Education Guide.
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