In today’s modern workplace, having a wide variety of ages and experiences working within the same space is becoming increasingly common.
With younger generations seeming to opt more and more for alternative routes into work (rather than the more traditional option of university) and those at the other end of the spectrum working past retirement age; there has never been such a mix of ages and experiences. Of course, the physical workplace must reflect this appropriately in order for the diverse range of employees to work together creatively, collaboratively and ultimately productively.
This year, the number of young people choosing to go to university fell to its lowest in eight years, citing concerns of the rising costs and the ever-increasing challenge to find work, even with a degree. Around 14 per cent of 16 year olds surveyed by an annual poll by the Sutton Trust stated they were not planning on attending a university course, compared to 11 per cent just one year before. Equally, the number of women in particular working past the age of 70 has doubled in the past four years – so naturally, the gap in age in our workplaces is growing year on year. Although some may see this as negative, we at Active firmly believe this is something to be relished – it’s just something that needs careful consideration and appropriate support.
Whether each generation likes to admit it or not, we will always be able to learn from those younger, and older than us. Speaking stereotypically, younger individuals may well be savvier at social media, SEO and online related tasks. Likewise, more mature teams have the wealth of experience to their name, which stems from the decades of working life. And I for one absolutely see this as a bonus! At Active, we often encourage younger and mature individuals to pair up and work together on tasks, for exactly that reason; to learn from one another.
The first, and foremost, hurdle to climb in overcoming this challenge, is creating the appropriate workplace that works for you and your teams; that not only supports, but also actively encourages collaborative working. For instance, if your company regularly works in big teams, having break-out sessions, or just prefers the light and flexible approach, then obviously an open plan office could work for you. Similarly, however, if your company is almost entirely based around individual working at desks with little team work involved, then again, know what will work for you, and just invest in the best quality desks and ergonomic furniture possible.
What must be considered when reflecting on your workspace, at all times, is the changing workforce that will actually be in the spaces. The rise of agile, flexible and remote working is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down, and employers are fast running out of choice in the matter. With younger generations filling workforces more and more, it must be considered what works for them. Hot desking, remote working, and all the latest technology is most likely to be on the wish list for anyone; but no more so than the younger generations in the office.
Spaces should reflect a wide array of working styles and methods, and a space will only work if it truly encompasses and reflects the ethos and needs of the employees. Employers need to create harmonious environments; by successfully implementing change management, being clear with their objectives and goals, and keeping clear and open dialogue between staff and employer. In addition, business leaders need to be seen to be doing whatever they attempt to implement, and be involved in the communicative culture of a workplace, therefore leading by example. Changes within the workplace if everyone involved is on board; and what better way to kick start it than by keeping each and every person affected engaged, and seeing their own managers practicing what they preach? Ultimately, a successful workplace will support you and give you purpose – whatever your age.
About the author
Having managed her own small business, Angela Love joined Active in 2007 to support the senior management team. Her remit was to build a strong people infrastructure to support business growth. Recognising that employees are at the heart of any successful business Angela works to attract, nurture and retain a talented workforce. Currently shortlisted for SME of the Year at the Thames Valley Awards. Founded in 1999, workplace specialist Active is one of the most trusted companies within the office interiors industry today. They specialise in all aspects associated with workplace change: from design and build to furnishings and relocation. Active’s client base includes Channel 4, Sony, PACT, Mercedes Benz, and Virgin Media.