I find myself traveling here and there when working on consulting projects. In the past, I would find a cubicle, office, or conference room at the client’s location I could setup in and go to work. Other times, I would hunt down a Regus office and pay the pricey fee. I had to pay an additional fee for awful coffee and unhealthy snacks such as snickers, kit kat, etc. Today’s millennials are social bugs, enjoy being in an active environment, sit in front of a screen and zone out all the noise focusing on their objective of getting work done. I had a few millennials working for me at my previous company, and I couldn’t understand how they would work well away from the office at a coffee shop plowing through the work in our ticketing system. Sometimes they would call me, or I would call them I could hear all the noise in the background but to them it was music, they were good, and were very productive, happy, and achieving more than being at the office.
I have had an opportunity to experience this environment more, and at first, it was very distracting, it has become an option for me when choosing a work environment. I cal always escape to my home office where I have a large screen, desk, TV and other quiet or noise options should I need to adjust my environment.
The millennials simply put on headphones, and escape into their music, chat away through Instant Messenger, iMessage, Hangouts, or another chat platform as the baristas are there ready to serve their food and drink needs. They dislike email, voice calls, and prefer instant messaging apps instead. They would prefer email over voice and will happily respond knowing the next option from email is a voice call. If I called them, they would respond back in a Text or Email with “What’s Up? Do you need something? I missed a call from you?” Never would they call me back on voice unless I responded back “Please Call”?
I have adopted the new working environment and believe that companies really should take a look at this new form of a workspace. The office can be smaller, and dedicated spaces for employees can be limited or even eliminated providing an enclave time solution such as first come first serve, or using Microsoft Exchange room option to reserve spaces just like you would reserve a conference room.
Employees can self-address potential conflicts by shifting themselves around office drama or even avoiding it all together. For example, If they do not like someone, they can choose to sit somewhere else in the office or work at a Starbucks where the personality conflict can be minimized or avoided completely. In my opinion, employees having the ability to choose their working environment in many ways limits the potential liability a company may have if the employee chooses his or her environment outside of the direction of the company. I was chatting up an individual today, and she mentioned that she likes to come here instead of going to the office. She says she gets eighty percent more work done by avoiding the office drama, constant interruptions of people coming by to discuss nonwork-related topics and the commute from her home to this particular Starbucks in 5 minutes vs. 60 minutes. She also dresses down which allows her a little more sleep in the morning. All in all, as a Salaried Employee she would work about 6 hours a day driving into the office as she felt if the company is forcing her to come into the office, they should cover the commute time she suffers through. Working at Starbucks, the time flies, and she says she unintentionally gives her employer on occasion more than 8 hours a day because she is in her element, wants to finish something up and isn’t worried about ten more minutes turning into a two-hour commute vs. a one hour commute. She is just a two-minute drive away from her child’s school which minimizes the concern of her being so far away from her child. As a single mom, she invests a lot of time and energy in work, and her child, leaving little for herself. This work environment gives her a boost not available to the working class single mom or dad of the past. I find executives have adopted the Starbucks office as well. You see them sitting on their phone or iPad just managing people.
As I was typing this article, the Police Department came in here and started planning the route for a funeral escort from the funeral home to the cemetery. That was awesome to hear how they wanted to avoid construction areas and make the journey as painless as possible for everyone. They were discussing options, verifying the military branch the individual served in, and putting a lot of effort into the plan. After taking the photo, several other police officers showed up, and they discussed the final plan before heading out. In closing, the office environment, and benefits of the past are not as important to today’s workforce. I think today’s Executive and Middle Management need to be open to alternative work environments capitalizing on amazing talent that would otherwise go elsewhere to an environment that gives them their individuality and more control of their working relationship. I remember a good friend of mine his name is Dean. He is a Chiropractor in California. When the day was over, he didn’t want to stick around the office; he wanted to jump in his car and get out of the office ASAP. It wasn’t that he didn’t’ love what he did, he just wanted a change of scene, put the top down, windows down, and drive away from the same four walls he just spent the last 10 hours in. This was 1990, and he was the business owner. On the flip side though, there are employees that want the cubicle, office, and will function better in that type of environment. Before choosing one over the other, I would discuss with management a hybrid solution that accommodates both types of employees, so you do not lose talent over corporate policy. Setup office spaces and cubicle that can be assigned and if someone chooses that, there is an expectation that they are at the office the majority of the time. Then setup cubicle/office spaces and call them something like ENCLAVE. They can be rented by the day, week or some schedule. You can leverage Microsoft Exchange to manage the corporate resource.
In closing, don’t lose talent or create stressful work environments unintentionally. If or when you deploy a new policy, do not forget the middle management. I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days over a global cloud-based file sharing service. Their staff has the flexibility to work from home or come into an office environment that has several floors of themed spaces, restaurant with free food, gym, etc. While their policy allows for people to work from home or offsite, the expectation was that managers and or executive staff be at the office every day. This policy is going to cost them some great talent if a change isn’t done in the next six to ten months. They are looking at losing some key personnel that do not want to create conflict or complaint, they simply are going to jump ship to another opportunity that will afford them the same flexibility allowing them to be close to home, kids schools, minimize commute, etc.