No More 9-5: What Will the Future of the Office Look Like?
With the aim to uncover what the workplace of the future looks like, video web conferencing provider PowWowNow delved into research and interviewed experts and young professionals to outline the changes society is bringing to the workplace.
Professor Feng Li, Chair of Information Management at Cass Business School London, Jon Loftin, Head of Unified Communications at PowWowNow and business coach Ruth Kudzi were able to add their valuable insights to this research.
As stated in a study carried out by PwC in 2017, Millennials will make 75% of the workforce in 2025, bringing a significant change to labour. Research by PowWowNow also reveals that 70% of this workforce want flexible working options.
64% of millennials want the office to change to remote working
In 2014, The Flexible Working Regulations established the right for employees in the UK to request flexible working, driving a lot of young people to become freelancers and work from different places – may it be from home, a coffeeshop or even a beach in Australia.
The office as we know it is therefore in a radical change. Today, 64% of Millennials wish to work from home, and another 66% would like to be able make their working hours more flexible.
Therefore, businesses today need to respond to these demands in order to increase their employee loyalty. A research study conducted by Deloitte found that there was a strong correlation between flexible working offering and employee loyalty, with over 55% of millennials expected to stay more than 5 years when given more flexibility at work.
43% of Gen Y consider freelancing as alternative to a full-time job
On the flipside, this flexibility means that a lot of companies are now also opting for freelancers to outsource short-term projects. Another reason for choosing freelance activities is apparently the better pay, with around 56% of millennials choosing to be a freelancer for financial reasons. As this seems to bear more professional and personal opportunities, 43% of Gen Y are considering the gig economy as an alternative to full-time employment.
One of the main reasons for this switch in working patterns could be down to people not having enough time to enjoy their hobbies. 42% of people told PowWowNow that they didn’t have enough spare time in the week to explore different hobbies.
Despite the gig economy’s increasing popularity, there are also risks to it that both companies and remote workers need to consider.
Ruth Kudzi states: “[Remote working] isn’t wholly positive, because I think there might be personality types where the office provides the only social support they get, and could cause an epidemic of loneliness, which is the most detrimental thing for your health. But for most people, having control over how they work will be massively beneficial. A business needs to take this into account with their employee training plan.”
“With ever more web platforms mediating between freelancers and companies and enabling them to rate each other, the gig economy shines a light on good and bad workers and employers, pulling up and professionalising the entire industry,” adds Laurent Gibb, CEO at Staff Heroes.
As the gig economy easily leads to belief that workers can easily be replaced by each other, “employers need to understand that they need to treat all workers, permanent or gig in the same way and make it accessible for everyone to join and work for them”, he stresses further on.
Wearables and VR are likely to revolutionise the way we work. Start-ups are often seen as the new way we work and are therefore often associated with flexible working.
Jon Loftin, Head of Unified Communications at PowWowNow, says workers’ quick adoption of new technology at home is accelerating workplaces’ typically slow uptake. And that could extend to virtual reality (VR) and wearables:
“[Wearable tech] could be incorporated in some way in the future. It’s difficult to see an improvement beyond a tablet computer, because a screen is necessary. VR might come into the workplace at some point, it would be helpful when discussing issues with customers, not being limited to a flat image.”
Yet, Prof. Feng Lui thinks that body language is still very important and still requires physical meetings. Although VR could help improve these aspects, he claims that research has shown that e-meetings are more efficient if you already know each other before, rather than getting to know business partners through the electronic way.
52% of millennials consider work culture as most important factor when choosing a workplace
The office is not entirely dead, yet. As technology and the gig economy have made our schedules heavier than ever, Millennials are now putting emphasis on work culture, with 52% of them claiming that a positive work culture is important when they choose to work for a company.
In contrast to the many generations before, Gen Y doesn’t want to work any longer for sole sake of earning money – they are also looking to work for a purpose and with people they like to become friends with. Therefore, fostering a work community has never been as important as today.
Sara Hazelwood, Sales and Marketing Manager at SugarVida adds: “In our company, we tend to all meet for big ‘away days’ or ‘weekends’ to build inspiration. For instance, we recently went to Denmark and rented out a summer beach house to get the brain going!”
However, businesses should be aware that simply promoting this won’t do the trick anymore, as many recruitment services offer the public ratings for employers.
It is therefore vital for a business today to form a plan on how to attract skilled young professionals and how to foster an environment in which they can express themselves to stay loyal to the company. With 18% of young professionals wishing their company would become more diverse, hiring people from different backgrounds is an important step that many businesses worldwide unfortunately still need to embrace.