We’ve all heard about the offices of the world’s leading tech-brands. But have you ever wondered if you should be adapting your workplace to follow these trends? Based in Bacup in Rossendale in deepest darkest east Lancashire, we don’t see many businesses embracing that ethos around here – but on a day to day basis I see this spreading from outwards from the centre of Manchester. And Rossendale really isn’t that far from Manchester.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in a comprehensive research program, working with leading business psychologists and workplace consultants, reviewing the emerging phenomenon of engaging workspaces. Despite having summarised this to some extent before, in this post I wanted to summarise some of the things we learned and apply some of those thoughts to Rossendale (where I live).
Emails, Jobsites, Social Media and Smartphones have changed everything
Technology has changed the world in ways in which those of us who have lived through the internet revolution barely recognise. Millennials are the first generation of tech natives to emerge from this period. They are also the first generation to feel less than grateful for being employed.
Millennials are the demographic cohort following Generation X. Although there are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends. Demographers typically use the early-1980s as starting birth years and ending birth years ranging from the mid-1990s to early-2000s.
This new generation of employees can anonymously ‘shop’ for jobs online. They know how much they’re worth and they can see what it’s like to work in a business. They generally feel confident that they can get a new job if they’re not happy in their current role. This is because they have so much visibility of the job market.
Technology also means we are increasingly living in a world in which we are ‘always on’. Employees now work in a world where they must always consider work. Answering emails into the evening is the curse of the smartphone, and employees must be conscious of their employment at all times, even on social media.
As work life blurs into home life, workspaces and workplace cultures need to adapt to reflect the change technology is having on how we work.
What kind of workplaces are people looking for?
Creating a workplace full of perks attracts, retains and engages the best talent, by creating a space where people actually want to work. Reducing the cost of employee churn, which is increasing due to the rise in the number of Millennial workers, is a principal concern for many employers.
Playful perks such as table tennis, table football, games consoles, chill-out zones and free food, also reduce reliance on bonuses because employees feel rewarded every day. They increase productivity and allow people to explore concepts differently, and often in ways that have not been socially acceptable since their childhood. This makes businesses more innovative and ultimately can lead to greater profitability.
Employees who work in an engagement-centric environment are less likely to be stressed or take sick days and they are less likely to have disputes with their employers – because they’re happy!
But isn’t a playful work culture a little bit immature?
Being able to have fun and use play in the workplace is increasingly seen as a professional attribute, not a juvenile one. In the future, it is likely that employees who feel uncomfortable using fun will themselves be viewed as unprofessional.
To build a culture that genuinely embraces fun and play, business leaders have to trust their teams, and encourage and empower them to use play daily. This is contrary to the natural inclination of many business owners and managers, who are generally not millennials. It’s also essential that this isn’t ‘enforced’ fun. Rather the fun should be a genuine and spontaneous expression of the culture of the organisation.
Millennial business owners believe in the power of play and are building enterprises with cultures that reflect this. We see this in some of the world’s biggest tech brands, but it’s also happening on a smaller scale in new businesses.
Isn’t workplace fun just a fad?
Elements of this trend may be a fad. OK – office space hoppers may not be around forever but the concept of employers attempting to make their employees love working for them, in order to stop the employee looking elsewhere, is here to stay. When thinking about their relationship with their employees, employers need to operate more like brands to be consumed.
If the older generation of business owners and more established organisations don’t buy in and adapt their own corporate cultures, it’s likely they’re going to find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
This should give you a taste of the research that I’ve been involved with. It doesn’t take a lot of research to find countless studies related to the role of fun, play and perks in employee engagement.
Creating a workspace which promotes wellbeing and engagement can cost a little or a lot, but it can be achieved with relatively little planning. Creating the environment and culture to empower and trust teams to take advantage of these workspaces requires more effort and focus from the management and leadership.
Rossendale business need to recognise that they compete with large cities such as Manchester for the best talent the area has to offer. If Rossendale is to retain this talent it’s essential that businesses step up and start to out compete what’s on offer from some of the forward thinking firms of the region.