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How have businesses changed in the last 50 years?

As communications, transport and technology have changed the way individuals live their lives, so too have these advances altered many business operations.

Decline in Personal Service

Fifty years ago, communities were very much more localised, with businesses serving a more stable population. They were more likely to know their customers personally and deal with them face to face. Modern business practices and the demands of a faster-moving and frequently relocating population have caused a decrease in the personal touch offered by many businesses.


The changing face of business over the last fifty years has seen the removal of many business operations to out-of-town industrial, retail and business parks such as Oxford Business Park. These concentrations of commercial, office or manufacturing bases offer a more tailor-made infrastructure to both business operations and customer satisfaction in ease of access. Town centres are no longer able to satisfy modern transport and communications needs. Shoppers demand free parking on the doorstep of their retail destinations, and manufacturing plants need accessible road and rail links for distribution.

Workforce and Working Hours

The line between the roles of the genders has become increasingly blurred in most areas of business. Fifty years ago a woman’s role was clearly defined within the confines of home and family and career women were the exception rather than the rule. The notion of equality in opportunity or salary didn’t exist, and there were no right-protecting laws in place to force businesses to comply. This is one of the major differences of the modern workplace.

More recently, as a result of working hours directives and the increased difficulty of sacking ineffective employees, a number of businesses are now working extensively or exclusively with part-time or temporary contracts. Full-time working hours tend to be longer, with a greater expectation that workers will put in overtime to make up the shortfall in their contracted hours. Balancing this is a frequent willingness by employers to offer flexible working hours, enabling employees to more efficiently balance work and family commitments.

The changes in business practice and associated cultural shifts has tipped the economic balance of families, resulting in a need for two incomes per household. Gone are the days of the male breadwinner and the female housewife.


Fifty years ago it was only big businesses who traded abroad. Advances in communications and transport mean that businesses of all sizes are now able to trade in the global marketplace.

Communications technology, computerisation and automation, along with the internet, mean businesses may conduct their customer service from one country and their manufacturing operations from another. Not only does globalisation impact the ways in which businesses conduct the sales and manufacturing sides of their enterprises, it also impacts the workforce, who, in many instances, are now increasingly multicultural.

From the top down, employees are obliged to interact and communicate effectively with diverse cultures. It’s not uncommon for businesses to have offices in several major cities around the world, resulting in a more mobile workforce and the obligation on many workers at management level to travel extensively between foreign offices.

As business impacts daily life, changes in both over the last fifty years are reflected in each other. The result is greater opportunity in a global marketplace, increased opportunity for entrepreneurship, and more choice for the customer.