This post is part 1 of 2 related to workplace evolution.
Remember when doctors smoked at the office? You don’t have to watch Mad Men to appreciate how much the workplace has evolved in the last 50 years. Right now we have three generations–Boomers, Gen X and Millenials–in the workforce with varying needs and expectations, and things are changing.
Now is the time for flexibility. In order to motivate and reward all three generations, employers will need to find ways to creatively foster a flexible workplace.
Each of generation values flexibility. For the Baby Boomers who stay in the workforce longer (not because they want to, but because financially they have to) flexibility is becomes an issue of leisure. This generation has worked hard to get where they are and they are looking for ways to enjoy themselves even as they stick it out for a few more years to hit their desired retirement dollar amounts.
In the same vein, Gen Xers have always valued a work life balance and believe that work is something you do, not someplace you go. And Millenials? They may never even consider going into an office. They’ve grown up with technology that made it possible to work from anywhere anytime; they got their degrees online and highly value their personal time. Across the board, all generations in the workforce have a potential need to telecommute from wherever they want to be.
And why should they be stuck in an office?
Current technology already allows for flexibility of schedules and interaction. Myself? I’m a Millenial. As an intern last summer, I never saw the physical office of the company I worked for; I only met with colleagues face to face a few times. And it doesn’t stop with telecommuting. The way generations job search is also evolving. I have seen my grandpa hand over the help wanted section of a newspaper with ads circled, but 77 percent of job seekers today are using mobile apps to search for jobs, and 89 percent of companies are using social media to recruit new talent.
As a Millennial, I get a little smug teaching my aunt how to update her Facebook profile, but social media is a multi-generational tool. Yes, Baby Boomers can use Facebook; they even have some things to teach Millenials about it. Boomers have seen a lot of technological changes since they entered the workforce. They have gone from being frightened of social media to successfully integrating it into business practice to build relationships, something Millenials have yet to embrace. Gen Xers are already the number one users of social media for business purposes. No one will be left behind as social media helps create a more flexible workplace.
New media technology is already changing the way we work. Instead of face-to-face meetings, you can initiate Google+ Hangouts. That’s what’s been happening at the University of Minnesota since they implemented university-wide use of Google+ last fall. Employees at the U of M are already noticing that the Google+ Hangouts feature saves commute time and paying for parking by facilitating online meetings. Employees can call hangouts from wherever they are with a laptop without worrying about reserving a conference room or getting to it. Google Docs even allows multiple team members in different locations to all manipulate one document at the same time. And you don’t need to work at the U of M to start implementing these tools now.
The future workplace might look exactly like the environment you choose, the exact place you want to be while you work. You will be reached by phone or text or social media, but still able to communicate face to face. By 2019 the next generation, Gen Z, the digital natives, will be hitting the workforce, doing jobs that don’t even exist right now. Maybe they’ll crave structure, like desks and walls; this newfound flexibility may seem as outdated to them as smoking in hospitals seems to us.
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