Digital Natives and the Workplace of the Future

By Melanie Tep

Generation Z [jen-uh-rey-shun zee] (noun) aka The New Generation

  1. Born in the 2000’s
  2. Does not recognize the sound of a dial-up modem

A majority of people we currently define as millennials are already in the workforce, so why are some companies still puzzled by them? In 5 years, we will be working side by side with a new generation so it’s time to think beyond millennials and plan for the workforce of the future. Generation Z has grown up with technology around them, and their parents likely posted their existence on Facebook before they were even born.  For everyone else, we have slowly become used to the seamless interaction of technology within our lives, but the new generation has always known that a screen can respond to their touch.

So what will change about work, workers and the workplace when we start reading headlines about Generation X retiring and Generation Z overtaking the workforce in the U.S.? Here are a few ways today’s innovations will shape how kids will work in the future.

Mobility: Technology has already enabled us to work virtually anywhere at any time. This has given rise to alternative workplace strategies such as seat sharing and unassigned workspaces. Workers today have had to adapt to these new concepts of working, whereas the “alternative” ways of working is shaping the workstyles of tomorrow. The way Generation Z will collaborate will be much more fluid and instantaneous, even when they are completely un-tethered from a physical workplace.

Interactivity: The Edge, Deloitte’s building located in Amsterdam, was created to attract workers to the workplace. The Edge uses sensors throughout its building that recognizes individuals via an app on their smart phone. The app assigns a workspace to an individual user that is tailored to the type of work they are doing and adjusts temperature and lighting in each office to the worker’s preference. One day the app will interact with coffee machines that will pour a cup of coffee to the individual’s liking. With buildings like The Edge already in place, we are likely to see auto-adaptable workplaces more commonplace in the future.

Flexibility: Companies today understand the workplace as a fixed asset with rapidly changing technology within it. To allow that flexibility they use demountable partitions and modular furniture that can keep up with the ever changing technologies and work performed within the space. In the future, the innovation labs concept will evolve, and the speed at which businesses respond to rapid change will become faster.

The transformation of work is happening as we speak. Is your company agile enough to keep up with the workforce beyond millennials? What changes do you think your company needs to make to be prepared? 

Melanie Tep

Melanie is an analyst at PDR with experience in workplace strategy and portfolio planning. She is also a millennial who is a technology enthusiast and values human-centered design principles to help others create their best work.