Have you noticed? Millennials appear to be everywhere. Not that this group -- the sizable cohort born between 1981 and 1997, now estimated at 75.4 million Americans -- was ever invisible. What’s changed is their status. Pampered and acclaimed, fussed over by recruiters, annunciated by the press, dissected by psychologists and analyzed by statisticians, the millennial generation has fully come into its own, and that means big changes to the design and implementation of the modern workplace.
The Millennial Arrival
Labeled as having illusions of magnificence, increasingly narcissistic tendencies and an overconfidence in abilities not yet possessed, millennials have overtaken the majority of the workforce. In fact, by 2030, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce.
Digitally wired and connected from childhood, millennials have never been more than a few clicks away from friends and family. This "on-call attachment" has instilled a tremendous social interaction crave. In fact, millennials find tremendous comfort and fulfillment in leveraging these social interactions to seek constant support and reassurance. This is why most millennials prefer working in groups that offer a sense of unity and collaboration over division and competition.
Such desires are instrumental in the development of their deep sense of community and the reason why successful millennials make sure family and personal pursuits are priorities in their lives.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that millennials prefer work-life integration as opposed to work-life balance. This infers that family and personal pursuits would not be sacrificed for the sake of career growth. As a highly social generation, millennials are considered to be the founders of the social media movement. The deep sense of community and always-connected lifestyle that has resulted in their work-life integration preference is why millennials measure productivity by work completed, not by time spent on a task -- especially not time spent in the office. Millennials simply don’t feel they need to be in the office, or at their desk, to get a job done -- especially since the evolution of technology has made portability very possible.
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These beliefs have begun to create a paradigm shift in the design and implementation of the modern workplace.
The Evolution Of The Modern Workplace And The Flexibility Trend
As we continue to shift from a commodity-based to a community-based society, location has taken a different importance. Based on this list of popular companies, it's clear that the concept that employees don't have to be at their desks to be productive is becoming increasingly embraced by the C-Suite. As a result, traditional office spaces with permanent layouts dedicated to focused productivity tasks are giving way to modular layouts with components that can be mixed and matched to offer innumerable combinations of collaborative work experiences. This evolution translates to workspaces, or activity-based working (ABW) models, that offer superior flexibility while allowing for the type of community-based collaboration that millennials find comfort, meaning and joy in. In many cases, these spaces are informal settings, such as lounges, collaboration areas and break-out rooms.
But the workspace flexibility offered by ABW models would not be possible without the tremendous evolution of technology -- and today's modern workforce expects a lot out of its technology. Not only does it expect to have access to devices that can talk to each other and update automatically, virtual meetings that are easy to set up and the on-demand availability of mission-critical applications, but millennials want technology that will help them with their personal growth and bring about change in the world.
Technology has very much answered the bell. Lighter, smaller, more powerful mobile devices equipped with wireless technologies have untethered the workspace and allowed for just about any space to be used as a touchdown space. Many of these mobile devices are light enough to carry and powerful enough to do intensive 3-D design. The increasing popularity of bring your own device (BYOD) allows employees the flexibility of using their own devices -- loaded with both company and personal applications -- that better fit employee lifestyles and identities. And it keeps them productive.
Through the use of IT sandboxes, employees have the flexibility of further collaborating with their peers by bringing their own personal clouds and applications into the workplace. By harnessing the power of unified communication suites like Microsoft's Office365 and Google's G-Suite, organizations are managing complex scheduling and combining best-in-class productivity tools with powerful cloud services that help take creativity and collaboration to new heights. All the while, the evolution of SaaS (software as a service) has allowed developers to offer on-demand deployment of powerful cloud-based solutions at a fraction of the cost of on-premise solutions.
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So as millennials continue to infiltrate the workforce, is following the flexibility trend a safe bet? Unfortunately, the answer is more complex. Ultimately, the ideal workplace is not one that focuses on trends but one that focuses on the culture and needs of the organization.