Optimising Workspace Models for the Youth
Young people — those under the age of 30 —constitute more than 50% of today’s global population. Yet, available projections say the figure will hit 75% by 2030.
In all walks of life, this staggering demography is an important factor. In the work and business landscape, it’s the largest percentage of the workforce.
Along with this enormous potential, young people of the digital age are ushering in a new culture, made of highly unique values, perceptions and expectations, to the workplace. Indeed, they are transforming the world of work, to the extent that keeping a youth-friendly organisation is no longer optional. It’s crucial to attracting (and retaining) the best talent available today.
“We live in times where youth has become irrefutably significant as they represent the new, the modern, and the desirable. Being young is being open to modification, change, and risk. Young people are the ones who dictate trends. They are more informed and easily adaptable to the speed of technological innovation”, says Joanne Bushell, MD of IWG Plc. South Africa (Regus and SPACES), the world’s largest flexible office space provider.
But without the ability to interface, network, banter and even chat idly about the weather, some younger employees have started to feel adrift during this period of indefinite teleworking, especially at larger companies. “Part of the employee experience is [shared] space,” says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of the HR advisory firm Workplace Intelligence, and author of Back to Human. “There’s a certain energy and presence people have in person. Once you start to remove that, it becomes harder to connect.”
Aside from forging a career deep in the trenches of the coronavirus recession, which economists fear will have a lasting, negative effect on the economic fortunes of Gen Z, younger workers have reason to worry about separate, interpersonal issues related to work. “I think their soft skills are in danger,” says Schawbel, referring to communication skills learned through team environments. “Part of soft skills from a business perspective is the art of collaboration and connecting… their soft skills are weakened because they’re not getting human contact.”
Millennials can often be wrongly perceived as a social-media-obsessed generation that prefers to work remotely from coffee shops, whilst on Instagram or Facebook, rather than working in a typical 9-5 job. The truth is that this generation of the workforce is simply bringing new life experiences and expectations into the workplace, just as the generations before them. Organisations would be wrong to dismiss these expectations and those that do risk being left behind in the battle for the best and brightest young professionals.
Nowadays, young people live in a social order marked by mobility, risk, insecurity, and uncertainty. One of the main causes of tension around flexible working are trusting that employees who are off-site are managing their own time and being productive. There is also the misconception that older, more senior employees and those with young children should be offered more flexible working options than their junior and/or single colleagues.
Standard Chartered bank’s Chief Financial Officer, Andy Halford, recently suggested that “the word ‘office’ will become a bit of a thing of the past”. His company is certainly one of the front runners in the move to a hybrid way of working.
After listening to feedback from employees – the majority of whom favoured some form of hybrid work – the bank signed a ground-breaking deal with IWG in January 2021. This will offer Standard Chartered’s 95,000 employees’ access to 3,500 flex spaces throughout the world, offering them greater choice in terms of both working patterns and locations.
Younger employees are seeking a flexible approach to work – companies such as Google and Apple are two of the best at attracting and retaining talented millennials. Google are world-famous for their success at combining work and fun – providing employees with scooters, slides and ball pits. Their relaxed yet efficient culture and management style appeal to the millennial generation who are seeking flexibility as critical to quality of life.
People seem equally divided among those who wanted to return to the old way of working, and those who were content to continue working remotely. There are certainly nuances between industries and demographic factors, but even along these lines there is no overwhelming majority of workers who want to return to in-office work or remain remote.
This division has perplexed some leaders, as several companies issued bold proclamations that “remote was the new normal,” while others returned people to physical offices as quickly as possible. Like most things in life, it appears that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how and where workers will perform their activities.
“The conversation around ‘hybrid working’ should not be limited to the home office. Instead, we need to move from the idea of one workplace to a network of workplaces”, suggests Bushell.
Attracting the best of the millennial generation to work for you is critical to the future of your business. Their education, career aspirations, technology skills and enthusiasm will define the 21st-century workplace. Many FTSE 250 organisations have already moved to a more decentralised structure, operating with a ‘hub and spoke’ model.
IWG has added half a million users to its network so far this year with a further million in the pipeline. In March IWG penned its largest ever deal, with Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, for its 300,000 employees to work from any of IWG’s 3,500 workspaces globally. This followed number of similar large enterprise deals such as one with Standard Chartered for its 95,000 employees.
With work-life integration, employers trust their employees to complete their work, regardless of how many hours they spend in the office. Most generations value this flexibility and are increasingly attracted to companies that trust their employees’ work ethic and also respect their personal lives.
Younger employees are no longer viewing their jobs as just jobs, they are seeking out careers that they find personally engaging, fulfilling and enjoyable at companies that allow a flexible, fun and collaborative workplace culture. Creating a successful workplace culture that appeals to millennials is vitally important in helping them to thrive.
Young professionals thrive under hands-on experience, they want to be trusted and respected for what they have to offer, and they want the ability to voice their opinions. In order to create a successful culture in the workplace allow younger employees the freedom to voice their opinions, engage with others and be part of decision-making processes.