It’s hard for millennials to not have an impact on everything they touch—they account for over one quarter of the American population and are the largest generation in the workforce. Their fingertips are all over the modern office.
Work-life integration instead of work-life balance
We all spend a lot of time at work. Once we leave work, we’re still accessible by text, calls and email. In the face of this reality, many workplaces are replacing strives for “work-life balance” with “work-life integration,” which, as the name implies, is more about figuring out how to integrate the two rather than separate them. Like all changes in the work-world, this change is impacting work spaces.
The famous Googleplex is a well-known example—with nap rooms, gourmet meals on campus and massages available 24/7, why would you want to leave? At least that’s the idea, but employees still have families and want to spend time with them, so this balance won’t be totally achieved by making the workplace more appealing than home, because it won’t ever become that. But as more and more startups, especially in the tech world, mimic Google’s response to this dilemma, it’s clear the change in office space is only in its initial phases when it comes to figuring out work-life integration. As more and more millennials enter the workforce, we’ll see where this trend heads.
Fun is important
Millennials, presumably like every other generation, want to have fun—but millennials are changing office space to make it happen. It’s not uncommon these days to find basketball hoops in corporate parking lots, ping pong tables in common areas and beer next to the coffee in the break room. In many ways, this is one important part of the answer to the goal of work-life integration, and while it doesn’t solve the problem alone, who cares? There’s nothing wrong with some fun. And it’s also productive—in a Great Place to Work survey it was discovered that companies who change their office spaces to accommodate fun are around 15% more innovative and experience higher net profits.
Communication goes both ways
Another thing that survey found was that innovative, millennial-friendly workplaces choose to focus on two-way communication. One company that does this especially well is the insurance firm Acuity, which includes all employees, regardless of their level, in the firm’s strategic planning. This opportunity for communication from the bottom-up, middle to middle and the familiar top-down, all at the same time, is millennial-inspired and helps break down some of the most formidable barriers in the workplace. It also has facilitated Acuity’s innovation—the firm has been ranked the strongest innovator among property and casualty insurers on InformationWeek 500 for 10 years and counting.
When you think of a flexible, millennial friendly workplace, chances are, telecommuting comes to mind.
While telecommuting is rarely a full-time replacement for coming into the office at least occasionally, it is something millennials appreciate and tend to want more of—and they’re getting it. Offices are adapting to accommodate telecommuting, and they’ve been making changes to office space to better integrate it into the daily workflow. That means utilizing conferencing software like Skype on a regular basis, not just on rare circumstances. It means firms are setting aside conference rooms in largely open offices to hold remote-conferencing meetings, while employees keep the software handy on their laptops for smaller interactions.
Offices are opening up
Many of the millennial-inspired trends in office space have their roots in the open office. When millennials have their way, the cubicles of the late 60’s-on come down and are replaced by open, community-driven office spaces. And of course, coworking spaces like WeWork are popping up all over the country as well.
This shift toward collaboration vs. privacy is taking place in all sorts of firms from Goldman Sachs to PwC, and it’s happening across the board for a reason—it fosters interaction, teamwork and innovation, all while cutting costs. According to the International Facility Management Association, around 70% of US offices have some type of open floor plan.
Yet older employees often like these offices less, as they tend to see office space as fitting with an employee’s level of achievement and value. They are also unhappy with the lack of visual and auditory privacy, and many millennials agree on that front—a recent study found nearly 40% of employees in an open office wish they had more privacy. Another study concluded workers in an open office are less focused and experience higher levels of stress. Yet most open offices have private space set aside where employees can have more quiet time, even if they aren’t permanently assigned rooms. And many offices are learning that perhaps a combination of openness mixed with optional private rooms is the way forward.
Open offices are in many ways the trademark of the millennial impact on office space, but it doesn’t start and end there. Bringing fun into the workplace, figuring out how to best integrate work and life, making telecommuting a real option and fostering effective communication between all levels of employees are things everyone, not just millennials, can enjoy. In fact, despite the stereotype that says otherwise, millennials aren’t selfish—their impacts on office space benefit employees of all ages.
The modern workplace is changing fast...
Are you keeping up?