Work is not typically a place people associate with relaxation, fun, and flexibility. Yet, the modern workplace is evolving into just that. From bean bag rooms to telecommuting, offices are focusing less on maintaining the status quo and focusing more on how they can help employees stay happy in their space. Happiness and productivity have a direct relationship. If employees are happy, productivity is bound to increase as well. Keep reading to hear about how the workplace is evolving to accommodate the needs of younger generations as they enter the workforce.
Our connections to one another through technology are hard to avoid, and offices are making the most of this need for constant social interaction between people. With programs like Microsoft Teams, instant messaging creates an avenue for people to communicate quickly without getting up to physically interrupt someone. Efficient, fast communication is the future of the workplace. “Technology will become more and more important. Employees expect to be able to do everything through their phone, from reporting a workplace issue to finding a meeting room, to seeing how busy the queues are in the cafeteria,” says Sameer Pangrekar, Director of Global Design & Construction at Twitter. Seamless, integrated office communication is now a part of any thriving company, no matter its size.
Telecommuting and remote work
Some jobs, especially those involving a lot of computer work, may not require an employee to be physically present. This is addressed through telecommuting. By having the option to work from home, people can have a flexible work schedule, forgoing their commute on some days. While working from home is not new, the ways in which it’s been implemented are. Video chat, instant messaging, and the ability to share computer screens remotely contribute to the ease of telecommunication.
Open doors and spaces
Open office floors
Physically, office spaces are more open. People can easily speak to one another on the open floor and feel like there is opportunity for collaboration. Meeting rooms are comfier, and open-door policies are implemented for leadership.
Decor is reflective of a company’s location
Big companies typically have a standard look to each of their offices across differing locations. This has become less and less the case with support growing for reflecting local art, design, and culture. “It’s integral to our design approach that our spaces are authentic, we’re not looking to build cliched or wacky-feeling spaces for the sake of it. We feel passionate about seeking out local architects, contractors, project managers, and vendors who are active in the local communities. We partner with them to build offices that feel like the city where they are located. If you come to any Twitter office, you will find interesting and thoughtful elements that are locally sourced,” says Pangrekar. This adds an element of uniqueness to each office, because company cultures will vary by office location.
No one really expects to be comfortable at work, but now that might be changing. Bean bag and rest areas are on the rise, as they give people a quiet area to unwind during their break without having to leave the office. Traditional desks hurt your back when sitting all day, and because of that, offices now have desks that can rise and drop to switch between standing and sitting throughout the day. Places like Twitter have meeting spaces that look more like lounges, complete with couches and trendy industrial lighting. Company policies, like allowing employees to bring laptops, gives people the option to kick back in any of the cozy private or collaboration spaces to grind out work. “We want to create workspaces that enable our employees to do their very best work,” says Pangrekar. “We also want to provide employees an array of workspaces, no matter the setting they desire. We’ve also realized that one size does not fit all—we’re accommodating different generations, different functions, from sales to engineering, so designing space that has flexibility is key.”
At any time during the day, you can walk into an office of a member in leadership and ask a question, because open-door policies make it easier to feel comfortable doing so. Traditional office culture made it hard to get in contact with a CEO and manager. While people in these leadership positions are still busy, employees now feel more comfortable with their leadership than ever before with an open line of communication and visibility.
Events, prizes, and food
Hosting different events in the office, like cookouts and happy hours after work, boosts morale and motivates employees to get through the week. These events can be either team-building oriented or just for the sake of fun bonding. It’s good to know a bit about colleagues and their interests outside the confines of the office.
Snack bins, cold brew on tap, and catered lunches are all common in the workplace now. The days of needing to rush to the store for a mid-day snack are over. Food is something that brings people together. Many places, like Twitter, have cafés with full time baristas and food options that make you forget you’re at work during your lunch break. Not only is food available everywhere in office spaces with mini kitchens and cafes, but it is also given out during catered lunches on certain days of the month. Full, satisfied, and ready to get back to work—employees love the perks of readily available, good food in the office.
Prizes and incentives
Part of this new office culture is having incentives. Offices will now often host competitions with prizes like money, paid vacation time, or tickets to games.
Mental health takes a front seat
It has become increasingly obvious that mental health is just as important as physical health. Considering emotional health of employees is not just good for them, but also good for the company. When people feel at ease with their anxieties, they’re able to work better. One policy being implemented at companies is paid time off for “mental health days.” Older generations in the workforce have a hard time understanding time off for emotional exhaustion, while newer generations coming into the workforce are recognizing the importance of keeping employees mentally healthy and implementing policies that promote self-care.
Not a company, but a family
While still maintaining a level of professionalism, a lot of companies now refer to employees as their family. “Twitter’s goal is to build spaces around the world that reflect the folks that work in them, so it’s always important that we collaborate with them closely,” says Pangrekar. “We actively seek their partnership on designing and programming the space to build an office that is both functional and fun that they can be proud of when they bring their friends and family to visit, as they frequently do. Building a community is important to us, and our spaces embody that ethos.” Co-workers are creating stronger bonds and deciding to see each other more outside of work. Disliking people in the office is more uncommon in progressive workplaces that create an inviting company culture. Instead, people are more comfortable with treating each other as friends.
Why go through all this strategy for workplace design and culture?
In the words of Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changin’.” Millennials and Generation Z who are actively seeking employment look more at the company culture, policies, and office space than ever before. “Our offices serve as the foundation which allows our culture to thrive and helps attract diverse talent to Twitter,” says Pangrekar. Attracting talented people calls for creating an attractive environment. There are job opportunities now that are geared specifically toward how to recruit, employ, and retain these people. As much as Millennials and Generation Z get a bad reputation in the office, they have a lot of power and control over how successful companies will be going forward as Baby Boomers retire. “We want employees to #LoveWhereYouWork. By giving them options on where to physically work, and the ability to connect with their teammates in a variety of settings, they’re able to do their best work. People want to feel part of a culture that allows them to thrive. Our focus is to provide spaces that allow for that,” says Pangrekar. Just going to work to punch the clock is out, and loving where you work is in.