How and why Millennials continue to revolutionize how we work

The future of work, as one Gensler report puts it, is design. People focused, not business focused. This fundamental change in mentality is a direct result of meeting the demands of:

  1. Cities shifting to meet different types of work and work styles
  2. Massive cultural shifts as the result of the entrance of the Millennial into the workforce

Today, these cultural advancements have morphed the physical space in which we work, dramatically. However, only a fraction of our entire population are witness to the impact evolution and so our work environments and work enablement technology continue to be ripe for massive change.

To set the scene, the workplace has become global. Massive incumbents have been shaken to the core with the disruption certain innovations and technologies have brought. Additionally, cultural norms have shifted — the idea of wearing a tie and clocking into a dreary, grey office has disappeared. Work occurs at all times of the day and from anywhere. We are no longer limited to the boxes of the past in order to get our work done, and we can work with anybody, from anywhere.

And, honestly, that’s the right way to do things.

The companies who have been most successful in this changing environment are those who have not scoffed at the Millennial and the insights and advanced ideas that they bring. Instead, they have embraced change and used but used these insights and ideas to advance their company culture and create more agile teams. Take the case of many of the most innovative and high-tech companies. “Google and Facebook have cutting-edge offices created by the young entrepreneurs who founded these companies, and they had no rules or standards to abide by, so they established their own,” says Barry Poskanzer, AIA, Partner, Poskanzer Skott Architects (http://poskanzerskott.com).

Quite obviously, the workplace of old is fading away, fast. Working and collaborating across geographic borders, while still respecting the nuances of different cultures or cohorts is crucial for a company’s success.

Today, approximately 35% of the workforce is comprised of Millennials, and it is widely accepted that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be comprised of workers with similar mindsets as myself, and the rest of the disruptive millennial masses. (CBRE)

Millennials have often been characterized as being connected, tech savvy, and collaborative. Diverse, expressive, and optimistic. Actual physical workplace design and a company’s technology standards have had to be re-imagined in order to meet the demands of the changing workforce.

However, there should be a distinction made from work culture and work style. Based on studies conducted by CBRE’s Workplace Strategy group, it turns out that though Millennials are highly collaborative, they still have a preference to do work on their own, maybe even more so than their senior peers:

In order to allow for Millennials to collaborate effectively and still give them the space they need to get work done, employers and teams must adopt technology that focuses on some key trends:

  1. Mobility and agility: As mobile penetration continues to rise (84% in Europe, 80% in the US, and 66% in the Asia Pacific) and people spend more and more time on their phone (71% of time spent online in the US happens on a mobile device), collaboration technologies have to be able to allow people to do work from anywhere.
  2. Integration: People have preferences in the tools they wish to use, and not being able to integrate is extremely frustrating.
  3. Freelancing: A study conducted by the Upwork and Freelancers Union suggests that 50% of the workforce will be freelancers. These freelancers need the technology infrastructure that will give them a voice in the company and allow them to do their best work.
  4. Decentralization: Companies continue to build distributed teams, recruit outsourcing specialists such as CBRE, and move headquarters away from manufacturing facilities and into cities to attract Millennial talent. Employees working in different geographies, at different times, and with different working styles still need to be connected to perform tasks essential to the company’s goals. Deloitte states that 69% of C-level executives say a transparent and connected company culture is CRITICAL to their organization’s ability to realize a vision.
  5. Personalization and Prioritization: Productivity and collaboration tools will increase the volume of information hitting employees. How to prioritize this information, and work together to create analyses and conclusions will be a competitive skill to set companies apart from one another.

Workplace experience is defined by how to empower the changing workforce with the tools and technology they need to do their best work. Physical space has been redefined thanks to Millennials, but physical space is only half of what defines work space these days. Millennials, and much of the rest of the workplace, are no longer defined by the boxes in which they worked. Now, we must also consider the virtual work world, and how to design or empower this world to allow employees to do their best work.

Over the next seven weeks we will be exploring industry trends related to the evolution of work and work tools and how these changes impact incumbent organizations.

If interested in getting notified when our new articles are up, follow our blog, and make sure to sign up for our newsletter, for more in-depth research, industry insights, and interviews of community leaders.