Already the pioneers of disruptive tech start-ups among others, a report last year by financial consultants Deloitte estimates that they will make up 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2025. This means that their aspirations and choices will increasingly dictate the structure of the workplace.
Brought up on advancing technology, a global financial crisis and embedded as a matter of course in social media, Millennials want the organisations they work for to offer a base that will encourage innovative thinking, develop their skills, and make a positive contribution to society.
Fifty percent of those surveyed said they wanted to work for a business focused on ethical practices, with resource scarcity and climate change top of the list. Fostering a sustainable economy forms a big part of this ethos, be it sharing cars, bikes and global bedrooms, or favouring retailers with responsible supply chains.
Fully dependant on the convenience of mobile, Millennials also expect to be able to work at the times and in locations that best suit them, meaning flexibility will be more important than ever. Any company fully committed to transforming into a digital business already understands that mobile working and connected technology increasingly form the foundation of their business, both in generating better customer service and keeping staff in touch with each other.
The future of work may be determinedly digital, but there are other considerations we should keep in our sights. Work is an important part of our lives, and people still form the centre of the workplace. Whatever technology they have at their fingertips, most people still need social engagement and collaboration to innovate and produce their best work.
The downside of constantly being on screen is a lack of ‘detachment’ time, the downtime during which most ideas bubble to the surface. It’s also been suggested that continuous connectivity and being overloaded by thousands of emails every day is changing the nature of our concentration levels. The result is a tendency to adopt simplifying decisions that often mean snap judgments, more likely to end in mistakes.
Businesses are increasingly coming to understand that creativity and innovation are inextricably linked and that employees should be encouraged to maintain regular personal relationships, not just virtual, with colleagues, partners and customers. Video conferencing plays its part, but there is no replacement for face-to-face meetings to throw around ideas, build and strengthen relationships, particularly when discussions are sensitive or negotiations involve cultures where trust is an essential prerequisite to doing business.
So what does a business do to make sure it offers employees the best of both worlds – supporting remote workers via mobile technologywhen it suits them, but also enabling them to maintain personal relationships?
SMBs in particular don’t want to tie up vital funds renting costly full-time office space when they don’t need it. But having somewhere professional to work for occasional meetings or simply to change location, get out of the office and be able to think differently has to be part of the environment a company creates for its employees to get the best from them.
This is where the shared economy comes into its own, by opening up a whole new type of ‘office’, available to hire by the hour or the day, that gives mobile employees a fully equipped base all over the world as and when they need it, and provides an infinitely more professional alternative to the local café.
It’s clear that mobile technology has, and will continue, to reshape the workplace, allowing people increasingly to work where and when it suits them. It may be primarily digital, but our physical work environment also remains vital to doing business successfully.
Millennials, with their new creativity and passion to improve the world, will drive this change. But it’s the responsibility of business leaders to remember that the ‘missing piece’ of the mobile working jigsaw puzzle will continue to be personal interaction: face-to-face collaboration that inspires new partnerships and new ways of doing business.
Caleb Parker, CEO of Meetingrooms.com