The office is now a spectrum of ages—your oldest colleague can be nearing retirement while the youngest could be a 19-year-old. You could argue that every generation goes through this cycle of learning to keep up with the freshers while balancing the needs of older colleagues and it keeps you on your toes, but the shift seems faster than ever. The adjustments can be hard for each generation, whether it is being on top of the latest culture tropes and Slack emojis, trying hard not to raise eyebrows when expletives are used, or understanding to speak the more formal language of senior colleagues. The question, however, is this: how much of this change is reflected in our workplace policies, many of which are just inherited?
In the industrial era, work was impersonal but output was almost equal to input. Today, however, the input includes our minds, hopes, ambitions, creativity—we bring ourselves to work and the output cannot always be measured or quantified. There are too many intangibles associated with work and going forward, when the human and the machine are enmeshed, work will take on a new meaning. We need a new way of working, one that is governed by a single rule that all humans who work are adults and have to be treated so.
The rest of the rules can and should be tweaked to suit the individual. Old workplace policies will no longer be enough.
Go through your schedule and think about this: how much do you actually get done during your 8-9 hours at work?
Earlier, we got to the office at 9am and left at 5pm but now many start the day at 11am and prefer working late. Some just put in five hours and finish all their tasks, some need more than 8 hours. Work is never about the hours we keep, but the intent we bring to it.
A great idea can occur to you at 11pm. How, then, do we live with the concept of “work hours”? A two-year Stanford University study, conducted in June 2021, found that remote workers were 13.5% more productive, 50% less likely to leave and 9% more engaged in their work.
Being able to choose their own hours and place of work clearly improves the intent people bring to work.
In a recent episode of his WorkLife podcast, author and Wharton professor Adam Grant said that remote work isn’t so much about flexibility as it is about people having control over their time and setting their own hours. “
Offering freedom sounds like a risk, but squashing it is also a risk. Stars are the first to leave,” he tweeted soon after.
Forcing people to work from an office for certain fixed hours in a day is a surefire way to have them leave.
Working with passion on projects you enjoy is more fulfilling than being shackled to one job and organization—and this is the mindset of Gen Z workers as well as workers of the future.
Over 70% of GenZers consider freelancing a viable career option, according to a February Fiverr survey of 7,121 Gen Zers around the world. They take up jobs as projects, deliver to the best of their ability and move to the next. The organization sees better outcomes and the individual more motivation.
Biju Dominic, behavioural scientist and chief evangelist at Fractal Analytics, which works with Fortune 500 companies, says, “In education, we recommend that a student picks a subject they are passionate about. Similarly, in the era of lifelong learning one has to keep finding new passions or ‘callings’.”
All of us have skills that can be used for multiple purposes. GenZs are clear that they will leave a job if they don’t enjoy the work.
Everyone can enjoy work if it comes in projects and one can work on multiple projects at the same time. If we believe that every individual who works is an adult, they will know their boundaries.
Work can no longer be defined just in terms of effort and money. It is purpose and passion too. It can be an extension of one’s personality. We are a generation that is working but also seeking deeper meaning through work. How many of us are happy with just the money? Why do we want fame, designations and a personal brand? Work is life.
As Marcus Buckingham, the author of Love+Work, wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “To attract and retain the best people, we must redesign jobs around a simple but powerful concept: love for the content of the work itself.” Work, therefore, should be a source of energy and resilience. It is this clarity of purpose and orientation towards free will that will govern workplaces of the future.
Nisha Ramchandani is a Bengaluru-based writer.