There seems to be no shortage of things that Millennials are killing these days. From marriage to lunch, nothing is safe from the imagined wrath of Millennials. Although some deaths may wrongly be attributed to the generation that is coming to dominate the workforce, there can be no doubt that they will change the modern office forever.

Cubicles to Open Offices

Developed in the ‘60s by an art professor, the modern cubicle was supposed to be freeing for workers. The intention was to give each employee his or her own private working space, enabling them to work without distraction or interpersonal conflict in the workplace.

In spite of its origins, the cubicle is seen as something of a prison by many rank-and-file employees these days. Nobody seems to want to work in one and they have a reputation as soul-sucking blocks of cheap divider board meant to give each employee the minimum possible working space.

It’s no wonder, then, that many leading tech companies are embracing the open office layout. Giants such as Google and Facebook have done away with the cubicle, setting employees up in a single open workspace instead. Their intention was to help employees feel less tied to their workspaces and foster collaboration on difficult projects.

However, open offices seem to have fallen flat. More and more employees are rejecting the open office layout. Complaints range from problems with office background noise to worries about fostering resentment among coworkers. Whatever the original intention behind the open office layout was, it now seems clear that adopting this plan actually leads to a decrease in productivity.

For these reasons, Millennials aren’t big fans of the open office layout, and they’ve heard enough horror stories about cubicles to steer clear, but what other options are available?

The Rise of Remote Working

Millennials are embracing the trend of remote working. Instead of finding ways to change the office, they’re ditching the office altogether in favor of working remotely. Remote work allows employees to choose the workspace that best suits their style. Some elect to work from a home — an old trend that is now starting to pick up a lot of steam — while others are working from coffee shops, libraries, or even warm beaches.

Remote work addresses complaints about the open office by giving coworkers space from one another. Management can remain confident in workforce productivity and collaboration by turning to tools like Slack and Asana.

Working from home has been an option in one form or another since the dawn of Capitalism. In ancient history the home just was the office or storefront. More recently, many people have begun to freelance online from home. Ultimately, however, developments in communications technology have made remote working a possibility for almost every modern business. The widespread popularity of the internet has obviously played a role, but more nuanced factors like the possibility of inflight texting are just as important.

Tips for Managers

The modern office is on the way out. While some forms of business can and should still be done in person, many of today’s workers can perform just as well—if not better—by working remotely. Still, managers who are used to a different way of doing things may be apprehensive about letting employees off the leash. Here are some tips to put management at ease while maintaining employee productivity.

  • Establish deliverable metrics and hold employees accountable to them. Your company should be able to decide how much work each employee needs to complete. By converting the usual workload into deliverables, it will be clear when employees are meeting expectations and when they aren’t working well remotely.
  • Keep communications lines open. Tools like Slack or other enterprise chat clients will help employees stay in contact while working from different locations. Even though workers are no longer based on the same office space, it’s still important to collaborate and establish a social company atmosphere.
  • Not every day has to be a remote working day. If it’s important that employees still have some face-to-face interaction with each other and some physical connection to the company, don’t be afraid to declare a particular day for in-office work only. You can tack on goodies like office pizza parties or potlucks to entice employees from their usual lairs.

Millennials are done with the modern office, but they’ve found a better solution. Remote work can help employees find the working patterns that make them as productive as they can be. Take advantage of modern communications technology to keep employees accountable and in touch.

AuthorNick Cesare works at a local startup in Boise, ID. He’s interested in how businesses can rework themselves to be environmentally friendly and take charge of improving their own environmental communities. You can reach Nick @cesare_nick.

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