As we adjust to the 2020s, it feels like a good time to look back on the first twenty years of the new millennium and explore how our ways of working have changed. With so many technological and societal advances, it is no wonder our workplaces are almost unrecognisable. In this article, we will look at some of the main ways the workplace has changed over the last 20 years.
Turn your mind back to 2000 and our offices were still filled with filing systems, fax machines, overhead projectors and other equipment that many Generation Z workers have most likely never seen before. Amazon was still a tech start-up and the creator of Facebook was still just a bright 15-year-old boy at high school, meaning two of the most influential companies today were yet to make their mark.
Although so many changes have taken place in the workplace, there are a few that have really stood out, so let’s take a look.
One of the major changes that has seen a large increase over the last two years is flexible working. Flexible or agile working means you can work from a range of different locations rather than just a standard office and at times that suit you.
This form of working has seen a huge rise in popularity since the global pandemic, with the majority of workers having to find a way to work from home. However, even before COVID-19, we started to see more remote workers and fully remote companies.
Although flexible working isn’t for everyone, many people do not want to lose this newfound freedom and flexibility. With a range of benefits — such as avoiding the morning commute and spending more time with family at home — it is easy to see why the workplace is changing rapidly.
Dress and Appearance
If you were to step inside the typical office of twenty years ago, the differences to today would be clear to see. However, one of the biggest changes over the last twenty years has to be to dress code, grooming policy and general appearance.
The newest generations demand that employees can express themselves and what in the past might have been considered an unprofessional tattoo or an inappropriate haircut is now generally accepted by employers.
Uniforms or an uncomfortable business dress code were once a standard operating procedure. However, nowadays, casual attire is a common feature of the modern workplace and individuality is embraced.
Perhaps the biggest change in the modern workplace has been the development of technology. Today, technology is part of every workplace process and many of the tasks we carry out with such ease would not be possible without the use of specialist tech. What would have taken several admin staff members weeks to complete can now be done in minutes.
Technology is used in so many areas — to securely store documents and sensitive data, manage staff remotely or in the office, produce correspondence, organise meetings, handle finances and so much more. Workplace management solutions are among the newest major developments to bring about a significant change to the agile workplace.
Whereas communication in the past meant calling over the desktops or visiting a next-door office with the occasional memo sent out to staff from above, today, methods of communication have changed drastically, thanks to technology.
Twenty years ago, we had never heard of Zoom. Now we have regular online meetings to catch up, make contact and do business. The noisy fun of faxing has gone, but emails are ever-present with their instant ease of communication. Companies have an online presence to communicate with would-be customers and office culture, inclusivity and camaraderie can be kept alive online.
If you are proud of your office culture, carefully nurtured so that everyone in the company has the same working ideals and values, you’ll not want to lose it.
Rewards and recognition for employees who do their best and a general appreciation of each individual can be fostered virtually or in-person; in group meetings and social events. The once-a-year Christmas party has been added to, with fun activities becoming a feature of office and remote work to encourage feelings of inclusivity and to nurture office culture.
What Does the Future Look Like?
It is thought that the workforce of the future will work two or three days from home and the other days in the office building. It is likely offices will downsize, use space differently — perhaps introducing wellness areas and different meeting rooms. Even the location of the office may move to areas with better transport links making them more accessible to the workforce.
Offices will need to have the best technology to manage and enable remote working. They will also need to be adaptable and flexible, with time-keeping and hours to suit the needs of the modern workforce. With these changes, the office can not just survive but flourish.