Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
For better and for worse, the workplace is changing. The old rules were made for factories and nine-to-five office workers, designed for steady employment in large established companies. Careers paths lasted a life time with one employer.
New rules in the workplace are here, and they belong to the millennial generation. Ingeniously created, they are a combination of bendable, risky and entrepreneurial. They are not tethered to times, places or even employers.
Work happens where you are. Not everyone commutes to an office; work-from-home policies are increasingly standard among employers, and remote work is a growing trend across the technology landscape. Employee mobility and flexibility help organizations become more productive and foster a culture of equality and diversity. These are bragging rights in the hiring arena.
Technology is the enabler, but the new rules are driven by humans. Employees have found their voice, expressing terms that are sometimes shocking to us Boomers. They have defined employment differently, wanting to live and work in a place that is just like home, because….well, it is home.
No More Workplace Nine to Five
The upside is working where and when we want to. Employers are increasingly more flexible as long as work is completed on time and done well. The downside is that there are no clocks to divide the work day from our home life. We are always on call and the 24/7 technology that connects us to our personal lives is the very same technology that drives production. The line between work and life is fading.
In 2016, about 123.57 million people were employed world-wide on a full-time basis. Forrester Research predicted that the number of people working remotely would nearly double—to approximately 63 million people by the end of 2016.
IDC’s numbers were much higher, estimating a 1.5 billion mobile workforce population this year. The Millennial generation – a group that will be 75% of the global workforce by 2025, says they expect work and life to completely blend together in today’s 24/7 world. With no distinction between work and life, both will seamlessly blur together.
Not all Employers are Equal
Some companies, like Yahoo and Best Buy, equate workplace productivity with face-to-face interactions in the office. They have rescinded their work-from-home policy, forcing some people to re-locate to a corporate office or lose their jobs. Their fear is that employees work less effectively without the real-life communications that empower collaboration and innovation.
But it’s a new day in the work neighborhood and employers are challenged to find and retain the A-game talent needed to be successful. There is a much shorter turn-around in a company that is planning an IPO or hoping to be acquired. Human capital is the strongest asset and predictor of their success.
That means the competition for talent is a global and workplace flexibility is a key factor in defining the best places to work. Using web sites like Glass Door, prospective employees can quickly find out about company policies and former employees can out a company with draconian practices.
Flexibility is a necessary by product of today’s workplace, designed to attract and increase employee satisfaction and productivity. It is no longer a perk to be earned or bestowed among the elite. Employers must learn to disengage themselves from the way things used to be.
Aetna and American Express and Hewlett-Packard have incorporated work-from-home programs as part of their company’s strategy, claiming they generate cost savings, increased efficiency, and more satisfied employees.
As someone who commutes three of Boston’s major highways every day (I nicknamed them the highways of hell), a traffic accident or weather delay impacts my attitude as well as my productivity. On a bad day, a thirty-six mile drive can take two hours.
We have flex-time – I can work from home whenever I want, and I can arrive and depart from my office with the same autonomy. I like coming into the office, but I also like knowing I don’t have to.
The No-Office Office
Time was when the CEO held the corner office with the view. Secluded, understated and expensive; his or her accessibility was controlled by an assistant/guard/foot soldier parked at a desk outside the door. Management by visual intimidation; designed to showcase hierarchy and prevent access without an appointment.
Today management Feng Shui is all about transparency and accessibility. They no longer say the insincere and mostly untrue “my door is always open” because there is no door. CEO access is now commonplace. In the start-up environment this creates cachet and is one more draw for the millennial worker.
Designing a physical workspace that is open and appealing may seem new age, but it is one of the easiest ways to create a transparent and honest culture. Employees have a sense of what is happening in real time. It keeps people connected to the mission of the company and creates a human environment where people speak to each other in lieu of email and instant messaging.
The open environment promotes communication, which in turn creates sound. It’s amazing how easy it is to tune out ambient noise. In the new rules environment, workers train themselves to concentrate, most often with the aid of headphones or ear buds.
The Future of Work
Millennials bring new attitudes, values, and approaches to getting work done. They are the ones writing the new rules for the workplace. More and more of us are, or will be, working in non-traditional ways and places. The new workplace will have adaptable furnishings, satellite offices, offshore offices and telecommuting. Nontraditional work practices, settings and locations are the new normal and employers that cling to the old ways may find themselves labeled as non-competitive and outdated.
The future of work is now.