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A young man in a bright suit and an older male co-worker in a more relaxed shirt discuss a business project on a tablet during a stand-up meeting in the more diverse and collaborative workplace of the future

5 societal drivers behind a new dawn in work 

Offices are poised to transform almost beyond recognition in the coming years for one major reason – the people that work in them are changing.

Until now, working practices have been dictated by the time ingrained patterns set out by past generations, but shifting demographics and societal drivers are creating a melting pot of new demands.

What are these forces of change?

Younger generations dominating the workplace

Poised to recast work, the millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000, will represent more than 75% of the workforce by 20251. Millennials will increasingly occupy managerial and boardroom roles, while the more youthful Generation Z, born between 2000 and 2009, will also grow its presence.

These younger workers, raised on the internet, tablets and smartphones, have strong digital expectations. They live in a culture of immediacy and crave creative, collaborative stimuli. Unlike past generations they overwhelmingly reject hierarchy for more nomadic ways of working.

Most importantly, they are entrepreneurial, comfortable taking risks, happy to challenge archaic processes and they bring a radical start-up mentality that can shake up industries. Their role in shaping the future of work will be huge.

Rising retirement age

With the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1944 and 1964, now increasingly retiring, employers everywhere are strategically focussing on attracting younger workers. However, businesses should be cautioned that the rush to retirement is a short-term trend.

Improving health, wellbeing and life expectancy, mean retirement age is increasing across Europe. Some countries are even indexing the future retirement age to life expectancy2. In a shift that will become more prevalent decade by decade, workers currently in their 20s and 30s are expected to be employed into their 70s.

As such, employers should be preparing for a five generation (5G) workplace where 20-year-olds and 70-year-olds routinely work together. Planning ahead will ensure these two demographics don’t clash, but complement each other by sharing skills and knowledge through collaboration.

Globalisation and the roaming workforce

Our advancing human needs are unlocking increased freedoms which are having a huge cumulative impact on the workplace.

Whether that choice is to work remotely, to work fewer hours, to share parental leave or to take more holidays – workers can increasingly find a way to meet their financial and lifestyle requirements.

Technology means people now have more options. They can freelance, job share, go part-time, change career, seize the opportunities of globalisation or set up a business to align their financial plans with their lifestyle.

As such employers will need to do more to keep staff happy or risk losing them.

Diversity in enterprise

According to the World Bank, women make up 45.9% of the active labour force in the European Union3. While rising female influence has had a hugely positive effect on work, productivity and enterprise – it sadly hasn’t had a similar impact on the office environment.

Gender equality isn’t the only opportunity here. Design innovation could break down disability stigmas to harness the talents of workers with challenges such as dyslexia, autism and physical disabilities.

The pressure on companies to not simply accommodate, but welcome and embrace these diverse needs, is growing year-on-year. After all, who wants to work for a company where everybody is of the same mould?

Legislation will hold employers to continual improvement

Adding impetus to each of the above societal drivers, will be the incremental march to improved workplace legislation.

Efforts to align the living standards of European workers, will invariably see legislators borrowing ideas that have been proven internationally. Minimum standards could be applied to a range of wellbeing factors such as lighting, chair comfort and time spent looking at screens.

This will combine with office connectivity ratings and accreditation initiatives, that make it easier for businesses and freelancers to select the best premises.

While fantastic for workers, companies will need to be on the front foot with compliance.

 

Sources:
1 Quocirca Print 2025: Millennial’s Matter report (www.print2025.com)
2 Morey Smith: The Future of the Workplace (www.moreysmith.com/what-will-offices-be-like-in-2025)
3 World Bank, Labor force, female (https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.TOTL.FE.ZS)

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