It's no secret that millennials and Generation Z are accused of having short attention spans. We’re primed to flick between screens. On the one hand this means we’re able to divide our attention between multiple tasks as a result, but it also means we demand plenty from the workplace – flexible working, working from home, and greater informality.
But what does this mean for the future of work? Will workplaces become ever-less formal? Will we stop wearing suits and ties? And most importantly, will offices and office spaces still exist, or instead just be replaced by informal meeting spaces?
Jenny Berglund, is a strategist at B+A. She thinks that workplace disruption is more than just a physical disruption, but an exchange of ideas too. “It is not just young people leading the charge. The traditional nine to five is changing and being disrupted for a number of reasons, from technology to social change. At B+A we think it is important that businesses are places where young people can be seen and heard, and bring their ideas to the fore. The thing that we have noticed is that young people disrupt by blurring the boundaries between work and life. Passion projects aren’t kept separate from work, they are brought into work.”
The workplace hasn’t yet descended into anarchy, and typical business models continue to operate conventionally, from nine to five, but there is change. Today’s workforce prioritises delivering results over the rigidity of a working day. Ask any millennial – presenteeism is top of the list when it comes to most hated things about work. If you can deliver three projects in two hours, then why stay at the work for the rest of the day when you have plenty of other things to be getting on with? Xenios Thrasyvoulou, CEO and founder of PeoplePerHour.com agrees. “[Young people] care more about their work/life balance and “having a life” rather than a job, and are making certain demands on the workforce ranging from increased flexibility, greater autonomy to higher earning power.”
Neeta Patel, CEO of New Entrepreneurs Foundation says, “millennials, or 18-30 year olds, no longer work to the traditional 9-5 office ethos that most of us in the workplace today took for granted, so we can't expect business to continue to work in that way. This younger generations are choosing carefully the types of businesses they wish to work for and the types of jobs that will make them feel good about their contribution to the workplace and ultimately themselves.”
Demand for flexibility can also be satisfied by freelancing. Thrasyvoulou says “the days of working for one company for most of your career is ending, and it’s young people breaking this model. Young people are not afraid of switching jobs, whether to develop their skillsets, perform a role which has meaning and purpose, or receive perks that impacts their lives. In order to achieve their ambitions, young people are turning to freelancing, as they recognise one person can perform multiple roles, working for one company or multiple, while one role can be performed by multiple individuals.”
Thrasyvoulou predicts that freelancing will significantly impact businesses, making it crucial for them to implement the processes and technology to manage an increasingly flexible and freelance workforce. By doing so, businesses can immediately access a global talent pool, providing them with the right skills as and when it’s required.”
Young people are the future of the working world, so it’s crucial that we listen carefully to the noises they’re making, and help to shape workplaces to enable them to thrive too. Patel describes young people in the workplace as “fresh blood”. She describes them as “eager and full of ideas, seeking out ways to make a difference to their world.”
She adds: “On a daily basis I see young people coming into the workplace who are not only hardworking but also equipped with entirely new, valuable skill-sets that older employees are missing. I also think it’s important for us to understand that millennials seek out ways to feel that what they do in their job is having some impact on how the company is progressing or engaging with customers.”
The best thing about young people in the workplace is that they understand the importance of putting customers at the centre of any business experience, says Patel. “A good business will recognise the benefits of having such skillsets and ambitions in place and figure out ways to utilise it to adapt and grow the company.”
One entrepreneur, Ted Nash, non-executive director at One True View highlights how technology has changed the way his company works. “At OTV, we’re not into letting geography determine who we hire; we want to find the perfect person for the job regardless of their location. They could be based in the UK, the USA, Eastern Europe, or Canada; all that matters is that they elevate the team and help us achieve our goals. We, therefore, employ a global remote working policy where our team balances their working schedule around their lifestyles to ensure they have a good work / life balance.
In terms of the future? “I think this will slowly become the norm and we'll see more businesses adopting this approach. Technology's making the world a lot smaller; communication has never been easier with tools like Skype and Slack, meaning people can always be in touch no matter where they are in the world.”