The other night I was watching A Game of Thrones, the wildly popular HBO series based on the books by George R.R. Martin. If you haven’t seen Game of Thrones- you should!
However, if you’re not familiar with the show, one of the biggest story lines is about how this group of living dead zombie-like creatures called “White Walkers” are building an army and devising a plan to attack the living. Due to this threat, the people of the surrounding lands were forced to reassess their traditional way of life and those who were once enemies were no long top priorities. The reason I am sharing this with you is because as I watched the show, I thought about how there is a comparison between the white walkers and millennials. How you ask? Now, we are not rising up to attack the living, but millennials are also a large group that have threaten many as we take over the work place. Millennials are always looking for others to join our way of thinking and we are making the business world change from what it once was. A study by Forbes projects that by 2025, 3 out of 4 employees will be millennials. We have brought change and businesses have had to decide to either join or resist.
We have all seen the shift from a physical component of going to the office to more of a virtual one. Millennials have taken the typical 9-5 - clock in, clock out, go to the office every day - and changed it. Companies have had to reconfigure to allow their employees the ability to work remotely, adjust their hours, and even adjust how work performances are now based (off project completion rather than hours clocked). Yes, I know we have all heard THIS version a million times. However, what people often forget is not all companies could adjust and conform to an innovative work schedule, so what did they have to do? Companies had to figure out a way to make their physical office more appealing to their employees.
It is easy to interpret the culture of a company just by a few simple items like lighting, desk arrangements, open community space or even closed off offices. This will set your employees up for a place of collaboration and encouragement or be dreary and unmotivated; you set the tone.
If you want an open and collaborative office, then you need to set it up that way. Here are a few ways you can make your office more physically appealing:
White board walls
Millennials are visual learners and they go off of what they see. Turning a wall into a place where ideas can be drawn and erased is such a simple and inexpensive way to make your office more collaborative. By giving your employees the opportunity to write all over a wall, you give them the ability to see their problems more visually and allow the rest of the company to see what is being worked on. Believe it or not, it is also a great task management tool! It will help employees stay on task without realizing it and allow managers to stay on top of employees without micromanaging them. If you haven’t done this yet, I bet you will. I mean if the wall is already white, why not?
Create open space
When you walk into an office, isn’t it great to see people working together, collaborating, and asking questions? By having a community open office space, you are encouraging your employees to take advantage of the increased opportunity to work together. It takes time and effort to walk over to your employee in the next office or cube to ask them a question, so most people don’t. But if they can roll right over, ask a question, and roll right back to their computer, it only takes a second. According to the Bentley study, 51% of millennials would rather talk in person and by creating these open work spaces, you show that you value that. Just taking down walls can drastically change an office environment.
Millennials look at their career as a part of who they are and because of this they are blurring the line between home and work. It is not like it once was where employees kept their home life and work life separate. Now, employees are managing all aspects of their life simultaneously. Due to this change and because these two worlds are overlapping, why not make an office space comfortable for this type of work-life balance. Millennials don’t mind coming in early or staying late - as long as there is a kitchen area with food for them the grab or a lounge area that they can relax in for a few minutes. It really is all about not making an office space look and feel like work, because to millennials when they are in a job that has purpose to them, it is no longer “just a job”.
There are so many ways you can adjust an office space to welcome this new generation and further your involvement with this new type of culture and collaboration. By making these few adjustments you will see an increase in collaboration and innovation within your organization. “How would you describe the physical space for employees in your company? Just think –we don’t know how the white walker situation will turn out for the characters in Game of Thrones, but we have all seen the effects of the “millennial walkers” and you know more are coming!
See you next week!