While the gap between the workplace expectations of Baby Boomers and Millennials still exists, it has definitely been shrinking in recent years – in large part due to the changing priorities of Boomers as they age.
What each group wants in their work environment may never align completely, but members of both generations recognize there are certain workplace trends that have had a significant impact on the business world.
Here are five workplace trends whose influence transcends the generational gap.
Workplace and Work Schedule Flexibility
When most Boomers began their careers, the concept of “workplace flexibility” was mostly nonexistent. The technology to allow remote working wasn’t available and a non-standard schedule for an office employee was unheard of. For Millennials, on the other hand, workplace flexibility isn’t simply a nice-to-have – it’s oftentimes a non-negotiable.
Even though flexible work arrangements weren’t the norm for Boomers for quite a while, lifestyle changes have led to a shift in the attitude towards work for many members of this generation. Most Boomers are empty nesters and have no dependents to worry about anymore – both in a monetary sense and in terms of obligations such as providing transportation. They now have more freedom when it comes to how they spend their money and how they spend their time. In turn, they are more appreciative of the opportunity to enjoy life outside the office during the week through flexible schedules and work locations.
Innovative Workplace Designs
Whether they were born in 1955 or 1985, both Boomers and Millennials will agree: It’s difficult for anyone to feel inspired to generate new ideas if the work environment consists solely of identical rows of desks, situated under fluorescent lights and next to gray walls, to which they and their colleagues are tethered for eight hours a day.
A whopping 82 percent of participants in the Capital One 2017 Work Environment Survey said they don’t believe companies can encourage innovation unless the design of the workplace and environment is innovative. This means providing flexible workspace options, including collaborative spaces and areas for rest and relaxation. Even though the workplace where Boomers came of age frowned upon new “disruptive” ideas, they now see the current workplace trend is to encourage innovation and that ingenuity is celebrated in the workplace, not censored.
Benefits of Intergenerational Learning
The professional and personal experiences of someone born in the 1940s or 1950s are going to look very different than those of an individual born in the ‘80s or ‘90s. While plenty of articles list the reasons Millennials and Boomers butt heads, the truth is many members of each generation have recognized they have a lot to learn from one another.
According to a survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 41 percent of employees 50 and older have stayed with an organization for at least 20 years. Therefore, Boomers have quite an abundance of knowledge about not only the company itself but also the industry as a whole – knowledge that can be quite useful for less experienced Millennials. In exchange, Boomers have become more comfortable reaching out to their younger colleagues for assistance with newer workplace technology.
Advantages of Mobile Technology
Whereas Boomers had already established themselves in a career by the time desktop computers rolled around, Millennials didn’t enter the workforce for at least another decade or two – long after technology had become an integral part of their lives. When they did start their careers, they expected their work environment to take advantage of the benefits technology afforded them in their personal lives – namely, flexibility and connectivity.
Boomers, on the other hand, have traditionally been less concerned with flexibility and connectivity in the workplace. Their primary concern was retaining a stable job that provided a regular paycheck, and the environment in which they earned this paycheck didn’t matter quite as much.
However, more and more Boomers are embracing mobile technology. In fact, a 2016 AARP survey found that 54 percent of individuals age 60-69 and 73 percent of people age 50-59 own a smartphone. With an increasing adoption of mobile technology in their personal lives, Boomers are more open to the workplace trend of using this kind of technology at the office. This includes mobile apps such as room reservation, service requests and employee wellness.
Influence of Cross-Workplaces on Innovation
More organizations are smashing long-standing department siloes in favor of greater collaboration across departments and functions. This is good for both individual employees and the company as a whole. Employees develop new skills and gain a fresh perspective when they have more opportunities to interact with people from different departments, and the company benefits from greater innovation.
Boomers and Millennials alike understand the importance of having opportunities to communicate and collaborate with a myriad of coworkers – which is why they appreciate cross-workplaces.
In a cross-workplace, the workforce is encouraged to share ideas and work together to improve the organization. Cross-workplaces enable employees to learn from those in other disciplines, cultures and generations, introducing them to new ways of working to which they might never have been exposed.
Although most Baby Boomers didn’t have access to a personal computer until their 20s or 30s and Millennials likely learned how to use a computer in elementary school, both groups recognize the impact technology has had on the workplace. And as workplace technology evolves, so, too, will the relationships between Boomers and Millennials and their opinions on new workplace trends.