Intergenerational workplace needs innovative workspace solutions

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By 2020, Generation Y will comprise over 50% of the workforce, while baby boomers will have declined to just 23%. What does this mean for how our workplace operates?

For the first time in history, there are four generations at work at the same time: the World War II Generation (born 1929-1945), the Baby Boom Generation (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1979) and Generation Y (born 1980-1999). This newly expansive intergenerational workplace consists of an unprecedented mix of practices, habits, ideals and philosophies, which have all combined to redefine the way people work.

As these four generations vie for space in today's workplace, it is important for organisations to view this convergence as a unique opportunity, rather than an adversarial event. After all, baby boomers and retirement age workers remain a resource whose experience and qualifications are invaluable to companies' bottom lines, as well as to younger workers who are seeking mentoring and feedback. And, in a blurring of lines brought about by rapid technological changes, younger workers can enter the workforce and immediately contribute.

The main challenge for organisations is how they can harness the synergy that is inherent in this incredibly diverse work environment; employees of different ages want to learn from one another, but they are not sure how to do it. This is exacerbated by the fact that different generations have different work styles, which necessitate different workplace arrangements.

To meet these challenges, forward-thinking companies have already changed their workplaces and how they work within them by implementing flexible workspaces that promote different types of work processes using a combination of different meeting and working areas, including breakout spaces, lounges and private work stations.

While this type of work environment might seem revolutionary, as workforce dynamics continue to evolve, collaborative and flexible workplaces will become the norm. This is due to two main driving forces of change in today's workplace. The first is the influx of younger workers into the workforce, who bring with them a mercenary-like, non-hierarchical attitude towards work. The second is the unprecedented rise of disruptive technologies, such as ubiquitous mobile communications, broadband connectivity and video-communications, that have combined to obliterate the idea of a fixed, centralised office as the focal point.

The best companies – the companies that will thrive – are taking advantage of this paradigm shift and are moving towards instituting a blended approach to work, driven by technology and the availability of innovative workspace solutions, which include on-demand meeting rooms, videoconferencing studios and individual work stations. This blended approach complements work within the traditional office environment with mobile and flexible work arrangements, as well as distributed work patterns that might include working from home or in a 'third place', a fluid common space where the new mobile work force can convene in an ad hoc manner.

According to recent research that Regus commissioned, 73% of employees in the UK work more flexibly in terms of time and location than before, 51% believe this had led to a more energised and motivated workforce and 63% report that this flexibility has generated more revenue. In addition, 86% believe that this flexibility will result in a large increase of people who go part-time later in their careers.

These findings demonstrate that the blended approach to work meets the overall expectations of the intergenerational workforce, while also providing solutions that adequately address the evolving mindset of work. In fact, the availability of a flexible work arrangement not only meets the expectations of younger generations, but also benefits older ones, whose members can delay retirement by easing into part-time or telecommuting-based work first on a flexible schedule.

Steve Purdy is UK MD of global workspace provider, Regus

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