The workplace is changing. It would be simplistic to say that only the baby boomers are affected and have trouble adjusting. Even the generation Y enters the workforce faced with a picture different than the one they’ve expected. They grew up watching films featuring glass skyscrapers, pinstripe suits and … The reality is far different – they’ve entered the “employment market” affected by the recession, polluted by unpaid internships, zero-hours contracts…. the symbol of “making it” has changed from a corner office to a cubicle, or maybe the ability to work from home and not come into the office at all?
Numerous changes have affected the way “work happens”. We decided to take a look at the key areas in transition and help managers and employees transform challenges into opportunities. Shrinking Office Space This is a big change, pointed out by Suzanne Lucas (the “legendary” Evil HR Lady!) in a recent Inc. article. Remember the lavish offices of Don Draper? It’s just a guess, but I suppose employees rarely request their own sofa for afternoon naps when negotiating benefits… We’ve entered the era of shared, open workspaces.
Suzanne was very helpful in suggesting how a company can alleviate the discomfort of the lack of space and privacy: providing noise-cancelling headphones, setting up a closed-door office that employees can book when they need to think, championing telecommuting. While these are useful tips, let’s try to think about open plan offices not as something we need to put up with, but something we can take advantage of. In an open environment, office conversations can move beyond the “watercooler chatter” – discussions and debates are encouraged.
Managers are mixing in with “the masses” and are easy to access – they can guide and support their team better. Project groups are more agile and can change the course faster if needed. Make the best of improved collaboration opportunities; ask for space and privacy when you feel out of balance.
Your Mobile Is Your Office
We have already discussed the shrinking office space issue, but this is different. Mobile devices have replaced: a secretary, a calendar, a phone, a business trip (Skype etc.). Many feel that keeping the division between professional and personal life is becoming difficult and frustration with out-of-hours calls is understandable. However, overall, I believe we are saving hours every week thanks to mobile communication. Companies who choose the right tools, gain the efficiency and innovation advantages that competitors lack. Remember, the mobile phone is a tool, and it has been given to you by the company in order to support your work, not to control you. Enjoy keeping your finger on the pulse, but don’t feel like there is a need to always respond straight away.
We All Work In Tech
How about a quick exercise – visit any job search website and try to find a role which doesn’t require any computer skills. How far did you have to scroll down to find one? I imagine it took a while. Proficiency in office software and technology is one of the most important skills an employee can bring to the table in the recruitment process. Innovative software packages, training, and cutting-edge hardware can also be a playing card for employers when trying to attract top talent.
Farewell To Bowler Hat
“Back in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, it was rare not to see a man in an office who wasn’t smartly dressed. Commuters of the day wore a bowler hat or trilby and smart coats. Women also always wore smart suits or work dresses” – recalled Elaine Archer of Aston Recruitment. Now, with the rise of startups and tech culture, the rules have definitely loosened up. According to the Leader Magazine:
“Polled employees claim; 81 percent had an increase in morale, 57 percent felt less judged with greater focus on performance, 57 percent felt better camaraderie with managers, 51 percent claimed they performed better, 43 percent claimed their boss was more approachable and 51 percent saved on clothing expenses. They also claim it benefits the overall work atmosphere with reduction in stress and anxiety.”
Sounds reasonable. Some argue whether it’s a change for good. I believe so – as long as the casual clothing is not offensive or overly extravagant, feeling comfortable and unconstrained can help employees communicate better and make management more approachable.
What do open workspaces, the rise of technology and letting go of the bowler hat have in common? All of these trends promote a culture of efficiency , openness, communication and collaboration. All of them can have a positive impact on employers and employees. Do you agree? Do you thrive in the modern workplace, or dream of shelter in your own corner office? Tweet at @engagiant_irevu to continue the conversation.