Workplaces have never been static experiences, constantly shifting to reflect the expectations, technologies, industries and workstyles of the day. The shift from agricultural to industrial economies, from industrial to informational; the rise of women in the workforce, the introduction of cubicles – or, at one point even, electricity – have all greatly transformed the workplace of the day. The physical environments of our workplaces, their surrounding infrastructure for transport and communications, and the laws that govern companies, are constantly evolving. There is no reason to expect the future will be any different.
Demographic shifts mean the millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 2000, will soon make up the majority of the workforce, so it is to them we should turn for guidance on what future workplaces will look like. Their aspirations, attitudes, demographics and tools will define the 21st century. A recent PwC report clearly sets out this challenge.
Millennials have grown up immersed in the digital world – making them one of the first generations to enter the workforce with a greater grasp of the fundamental technology of the day than their bosses. They understand its potential and limits, they have been fundamentally shaped by it. How they think, dream, learn, and work is steeped in the language and structures of the internet, as the workplace of the future will be too.
This bears out in the companies that have proven most adept at recruiting talented millennials – the likes of Google and Facebook. You don’t need to be a gigantic tech company to adopt a culture conducive to millennials, but you do need to inject one fundamental feature into everything you do – flexibility.
The age of the internet is one of customisation and differentiation, the end of one-size fits all. Your workplace needs to be what Amazon is to department stores, Facebook is to newspapers and Netflix is to television – a place that moulds to needs. Create a workplace that allows millennials to work how and when they are most productive, to achieve work-life balance, to receive their own brand of fulfilment.
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