Generations @ The Workspace – A Provocative Outlook

35% of the iGeneration would rather share socks than work in an office.

There is a 46% chance that readers of this article are aged 25 to 34. If that is you then there is a 60% chance you are Male and (obviously) a 40% chance that you are Female. From a Technology standpoint, there is a 7% chance you are reading this Blog on an Apple laptop and a 65% chance you are reading it on an Dell, Lenovo, HP or ASUS. As far as reading it on a handheld device goes, there is an 81% chance it is an Android device and a 17% chance it is an IOS device. As things stand now if you are a 1st world Millennial reading this blog on an Apple handheld device then statistically there is an 80% chance you work for yourself (or will by the time you are 34). In 2020 Generation Y will make up 50% of the total workforce. This increases to 75% by 2030.

If, however you are not between 25 and 34 don’t fret – you are probably one of the +/- 22% Generation Z’s (iGeneration) – a profound generation born around 2000 – the eldest of whom are now starting to leave school and enter the workforce.  35% of this Generation would rather share socks than work in an office and 51% of them envisage starting their own businesses after just 3 years with their 1st employer. Or you could be part of the 23% Generation X-ers – the Generation preceding Generation Y and the now “oldest” Generation in the workforce (born between 1965 and +/-1980). Generation X also has the arduous job of bridging the gap between the post-depression Baby Boomers and the tech-savvy Generation Y and Millennials.

Why is this important? Being between 25 and 34 you are part of the last Generation born in the 20th Century after 1980. You generally grew up with Technology and specifically the Internet, have +/-250 Facebook friends, Text up to 50 times a day, prefer to rather communicate via Technology (59%) than have face to face engagements (41%) and trust the opinion of your peers more than you do Advertising. In fact, you are 87% more likely to purchase a product because a friend said you should than if any kind of Advertising did. Generation Y is also the Generation the most Advertising and research money has gone into.

Most of this research money has gone into Millennials in the workplace and the influence technology has had on their view of work. Of particular importance to researchers, employers, Technology companies and workspace providers is the fact that 71% of Millennials expect to work as Digital Nomads in their lives. Interestingly this statistic climbs to 80% for Generation Z.  In a recent PWC study 100% of 4,634 Millennial respondents expected to work for up to 8 employers in their lives or Freelance to as many as 10 clients at a time. In another study, the majority of Generation X & Y employees were already working remotely 80% of the time and did not go into offices because to them traveling was unproductive. Technology also allowed them to be as efficient remotely as on site and the offices were (as they put it) “awful places to work at”. 59% of Generation Z will make use of MOOCS to further their knowledge, will never have office coworkers, freelance and never work a 9-5 in a formal office. Yet, 75% of Generation Y & Z agree that work is about more than just bringing home the bacon. Work must have a greater meaning – they hold “work” up to a higher moral standard than just “a means to an end”.

These numbers paint a very clear picture. Value systems will differ from one generation to another. One Generation may prefer a higher salary over company benefits or another Generation may prefer opportunities for promotion over work life balance. There is however a definitive shift in thinking about work, the workplace, coworkers and workstyles. The focus is changing away from the traditional: find a long-term job, go-to-the-office to do my work, be seen and engage face to face; to: I don’t need a formal education, I am my company brand, I have work-life balance, I can work from anywhere at any time and I measure my success on my outputs, performance and deliverables and not my attendance.

This clearly sets the stage for Business owners, Space owners, Facilities managers, Business centres, Cowork spaces, 3rd spaces and Researchers to seriously think about (if not rethink) their people and place strategies. This, as Generation Alpha are set to enter the workforce in 2031. One cannot but stop and wonder: “what work-world will they enter, what technology will they engage with, what jobs will they do, where will they work and what will these spaces look like in order to respond to their “work” needs?

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