How Millennials are Changing the Traditional Office (and for the better)

millennials in the workplace why we love them

Millennials, the group born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, are often accused of not being equipped for the modern workforce, and of being too self-interested or entitled to be productive team members. That may be the general perception, but what's the truth? It's important to challenge these stereotypes and figure out which sought-after skill sets this generation has to offer and how this innovative group is going to bring massive change to the old-school workforce, especially when it comes to the traditional office setting.

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Here are some key reasons why hiring millennials can benefit your business and how this demographic is shifting the workplace experience:

They're tech-savvy

millennials are tech savvy

As a generation who grew up with computers both at home and in school, millennials are extremely tech-savvy. More so than any other generation, millennials are able to understand and use new technology quickly and integrate it into their lives easily. This high level of media literacy is useful when incorporating new tools and technical advances into the workplace, such as virtual reality. Furthermore, millennials are able to seamlessly switch their attention between various media platforms—a highly beneficial skill as more companies employ omnichannel strategies that require staff to work across multiple channels simultaneously.

They're well-educated

Millennials are the most educated generation in history. Often times, they enter the field with a handful of degrees, internships and work placements under their belt. As the workforce becomes increasingly demanding, more and more millennials are entering the job market with highly specialized degrees, or with additional certificates on top of their bachelors degrees. Higher-level education promotes critical thinking, in-depth research, time management and self-sufficiency that translate well to the workforce.

They're more flexible

millennials are flexible and happy to work remotely

Most millennials embrace flexibility—in fact, studies have shown that up to 45% of millennials will choose increased flexibility over increased pay, whereas older generations may be more accustomed to regular 9 to 5 hours. Flexible work arrangements include telecommuting, working compressed hours or having adjustable work schedules. Millennials are also often more flexible in their expectations of an office layout and willing to work in flex or hot-desking environments, where employees share workstations rather than having assigned desks. As more and more companies opt for these types of work conditions, it is important that they find adaptable employees in order to maintain positive workplace culture.

They will work remotely

Millennials are seeking a greater work/life balance—not because they lack ambition, but because they find that maintaining this balance leads to greater job satisfaction and on-task efficiency. Millennials are also more likely to adjust their own schedules based on when and where they know themselves to be the most productive—and are therefore more willing to embrace nomadic working lifestyles where they can have this control. As such, more of them are willing to accept contract positions where they can work for a company remotely.

With connected technologies in place to keep remote and in-house staff in sync, millennials' ability to manage themselves from afar can save companies space and money, and lead to a more productive workplace overall.

Health is of vital importance

office bike culture health

Taken as a whole, the traditional office structure does little to improve employee health. In the long run, sitting in a chair and in a stressful office environment can be incredibly bad for your health and your productivity.

As a generation, millennials value a work-life balance. Life shouldn’t be all about your job and the work you do should be contributing to a better (and sustainable) planet along the way. Healthier offices will offer employees plenty of breaks and opportunities to move and walk around. Amenities like meditation and relaxation rooms, fully stocked kitchens or even personal office chefs that whip up high-quality meals will be the norm. Employers might even give employees time off to volunteer or work on personal projects that they find inspiring and meaningful.

Freedom matters more than pay

working home remote flex

Millennials are leaning more towards the “gig economy”, which is more project-based and pays upon results, rather than the total number of hours worked. Freelancing is seen as an attractive way to work as it allows the worker to work from wherever they want. This could be their home office, the coffee shop around the corner or a co-working space with other workers in the same niche.

You can cater to this trend in your current office by giving your workers the choice of where they’re going to work from and even institute WFAW (work from anywhere week). Or, at the very least, allow your workers to work from home one day a week if it suits your business.

Either way, the general rule of thumb here — flexible working will become the new tradition and being adaptable to this new way of working is the next step. 

If you can't retain a millennial?

company employees retain millennials

Over 60% of millennials, ages 22-32, have changed jobs between one and four times in the last five years, according to State Street Global Advisors and 44% say they will leave their current position within two years. (Source: Time.com)

When a trained employee decides to leave your company, this can actually cost your company between $15,000 and $25,000 to replace them.

Millennials end up leaving their jobs either because they aren’t satisfied or the company doesn’t leave any room for growth. A lot of slow-moving companies that have miles of red tape end up losing employees to more adaptable and innovative businesses.

By changing company policy or restructuring your company to allow for adaptability and advancement, you allow your business to become a major player in the long-term. Consider allowing your employees to pitch their own job descriptions, allowing them take on new projects and leaving them feeling empowered will go a long way. 

Learning means more than a steady paycheck

millennial worker learning skills

Being able to constantly learn and grow is of incredible importance to the millennial worker. If you’re not providing them with adequate training materials and programs that will help them increase their knowledge in the field, they’re going to seek this out from other sources.

To remedy this, you might want to change up your office space to promote cross-departmental learning. By having open spaces, you’ll foster an office culture where wisdom and knowledge is regularly shared. Another easy fix is to establish a bookshelf or a shared folder in your company filing system where workers can share articles, books and relevant materials.

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Millennial workers are a force to be reckoned with. Beyond demanding a freedom-based work culture, they're going to want to work for companies who contribute to the common good and prioritize the health and education of their employees. By aligning your company with these principles, you’ll be able to attract the best and brightest to your company well into the future.

Photos: Sebastien Gabriel, George Yanakiev, Snappa.io, S. Charles, Jonathan Pendleton