From working later in life to working from home, the way we work has shifted considerably in recent years to foster employee engagement at all ages.

Demographics of the Modern Workplace

If there is one thing about the workforce that everyone can agree on, it is the fact that it is constantly growing. As the workforce grows, it becomes more competitive. While many people might say this puts employees at a later stage in life at a disadvantage, some statistics prove otherwise.

One of the most significant changes is the increasingly competitive nature of today’s job market, which some older Americans might find to be overwhelming or even frightening. However, remaining current and even growing in your field can be actualized as many learning institutes and universities have answered the call for more accessible continued education with online degree programs. Online degree programs are perfect for adults who want to go back to school, but might still be committed to a current job, or anyone who wants to continue their education with a flexible timeline. In addition, online degree programs are often much cheaper than taking in-person classes at a university, so professionals boost the appeal of their resume without breaking the bank. By continuing your education at an older age, you will be able to increase your value to potential employers and continue to broaden your professional experience.

However, perhaps one of the most interesting facts about the workplace that has recently come to light is the fact that people are working longer and retiring at a later age than ever before. While some people might be skeptical about retaining older employees, citing issues such as requiring a higher paycheck because of more experience or less skill when it comes to technology, there has been a considerable amount of positive feedback. In fact, in a survey, over half of HR professionals interviewed said that older employees had a stronger work ethic, more maturity, and more loyalty to the company than their younger counterparts. The new trend has caused HR professionals to start to more closely examine existing policies and management in order to make sure they continue to address the needs of an increase of more mature employees.  

The Physical Office Layout

My earliest introduction to a formal office space was when I was probably around eight years old. My dad, who is an accountant at a large firm, often let us visit during his lunch break and have a family “picnic” on the floor in his office. I remember a sea of grey cubicles that all looked the same, and even as a young child I remember thinking that they reminded me of jail cells.

Flash forward to 2017, and the way an office space is organized now is far different than it was even a decade ago. With new research showing just how important the workplace itself is to employee motivation and effectiveness, it’s no wonder that employers are placing a greater emphasis on how their office space is designed. In what some companies are calling the “new sustainability”, the conversation has shifted and incorporated how an office is designed in relation to employee engagement and relationships.

One of the most interesting new concepts that is being integrated into the modern-day office is a greater sense of collaboration and teamwork through a less-structured, more open-concept layout. In fact, thanks to the open-concept trend, about 70 percent of American workers gravitate towards offices with open floor plans. Besides the open floor plan, in recent years, office developers have also integrated an increased use of glass, which helps to literally and figuratively offer more transparency. By incorporating glass through both windows and walls, employees are able to see everything that is going on throughout the office and easily communicate with others.

However, with open floor plans also come setbacks in regard to noise and privacy. For this reason, many offices have also begun to integrate other areas which are curated to offer a quiet, focused zone for individual work. Closed-off meeting rooms are also a great way to use space for conferences with clients or group brainstorming sessions alike.

Structure of the Work Routine

As employers and employees alike have begun to place a greater emphasis on a consistent work-life balance, flextime and the option to work from home has become a more common practice. In fact, letting employees work from home might even make them more effective.

In a research study published by Harvard Business Review, a Chinese travel agency let half of their workers complete their assignments at home, while the other half remained in the office. At the conclusion of the study, the company found that the employees that worked from home not only reported feeling happier and less likely to quit, but also more productive. By working from home, employees not only have greater control over how they manage their time, but also more opportunities to spend time with their families.

In addition to employees having a greater sense of control as to how they structure their work and when they do it, professionals are starting to shift towards a trend of becoming more transient in the job market. No more are the days when young adults got hired for a job out of college that they stick with until retirement. Instead, trends reveal that people often hold multiple positions throughout the course of their professional career in order to get a wider range of experience. However, the practice of switching jobs is not only becoming more common amongst young people but also for professionals who are further along in their careers. By encouraging employees of all ages and stages of their careers to explore new opportunities, companies can take advantage of new professionals with a wide range of talents and experiences.

What was considered normal or common in the workplace a decade ago is now flagged as tired and outdated, with trends and research to support them emerging every day. From open floor plans which foster collaboration and healthy coworker relationships to the ability to shift jobs and work from home to spend more time with family, the way the workplace has modernized provides great benefits for professionals in every stage of life.

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