By Dana Eitzen, Corporate & Marketing Communications Executive at Canon SA
Much has already been made of the working habits of digital natives. An influx of young professionals joining the workforce who have grown up using the internet, mobile devices, social media and other modern technologies greatly affects the way businesses operate. Not only do they expect their workplace to adopt the latest in technology, they have also been at the forefront of demands for more flexibility in the office. Given this, it’s interesting to consider why a recent look at the working preferences of office employees found that remote working seems less attractive to younger team members. Only 1 in 10 18-34 year olds said they’d want to work remotely, compared to nearly twice as many 45-54 year olds. This begs the question, are millennials turning away from remote working? If so, why?
One reason that the office appears more attractive to younger generations, could be the tendency of younger people to be more social and collaborative in their work practices, having grown up with the technology and social apps that enable these behaviours. A longstanding LinkedIn study found that millennials overwhelmingly report that friendships in the workplace have a significant impact on boosting happiness (57 percent), motivation (50 percent) and productivity (39 percent) – compared to a significant lower percentage for Generation X.
Another reason could be that home office technology has yet to catch up with their perception of what good office technology should be. Significant improvements in mobile tech and internet speed over the past few decades have caused millennial expectations of the speed and agility of their own equipment to skyrocket. The demand for immediacy as well as functions such as scanning and printing to be simple and effective, has meant that home office technology increasingly has to match-up to what workers are used to in the office.
Workers’ changing priorities and habits have already affected change in the workplace. The most forward-thinking offices are now less about desks and more about flexible breakout spaces, better quality of light and air, and central locations surrounded by amenities. Technology has already aided these advances, for example with the utilisation of digital archiving and the cloud removing the necessity for paper files and the space they take up. Environmental controls have become more streamlined and intuitive, able to react to both data from the atmosphere and human input. If these simple changes can affect the overall setup of the office in recent times, it is easy to assume that the technology of the office of the future could equally attract millennials to remain working in offices – if their high expectations of technology can continue to be met.
Despite the apparent reluctance currently, 38% of millennials believe that having the ability to work remotely would have an extremely positive impact. Both they and Generation X agree that it’s important that their organisation addresses remote working, with 79% of millennials and 73% of Gen X-ers indicating that view. It cannot be denied that the future clearly points towards flexible and remote working; the issue is simply that the technology must be there to support it. Wherever you’re working should not be a barrier to how effectively the work can be undertaken.
Home office technology needs to steadily start meeting – if not exceeding – the requirements of the next generation. Aspects like connectivity, speed and performance will remain key alongside more specific features like affordability, economy and size – particularly in the home office. Without the immediate support of IT departments for remote workers, professional-grade technology in the home must also offer hassle-free and streamlined production. Functions like the ability to print, copy, scan and fax from one machine will be a necessity, as well as easy connections to the internet, ethernet and Bluetooth, for example. Smart technology that can easily deal with the plethora of different types of files workers use, from PDFs to JPEGs to documents saved in the cloud, will also be a basic expectation.
It is clear that technology has to develop in order to meet the demands of emerging work practices. But with each generation that joins the workforce, expectations will be higher. Consumer-grade technology evolves at a speed which outpaces organisations’ ability to update. However, gone are the days where updating technology means months of laborious installation. New technologies such as cloud and as-a-service solutions, are enabling businesses to remain more agile. Whilst nobody can predict the future, by investing in responsive technology businesses can not only aim to weather new trends, but stay one step ahead of them.