14 ways millennials are changing office culture

By Leila Dorari

Millennials have infiltrated offices en masse!

This might as well be interpreted as a disaster alarm considering the reputation this generation of youngsters seems to have nowadays. Lazy, unmotivated, and entitled are some of the words that embittered baby boomer and Gen-X employers tend to use on a regular basis when describing their rookie employees.

(Though, to be fair, baby boomers and Gen-X aren’t exactly model generations, either.)

Be that as it may, whether you like it or not, millennials are here, and the best way to deal with them is to monitor their behavior and figure out how to work with them and teach them a thing or two along the way if you can.

In this article, we talk about millennials and the way they’re changing the office culture with their headphones, laptops, lazy bags, non-competitive work environment, and not coming to work at all (due to remote work positions.) Here are 14 ways millennials will change the work environment and the office culture.

-Dynamic communication

And by ‘dynamic communication,’ we mostly mean sharing pictures of pets on social media. Indeed, each time a girl wearing an orange beanie indoors posts a photo of her overfed cat on Instagram or Snapchat, you’ll hear plenty of ‘bings!’ and ‘clings!’ coming from a sea of mobile phones and tablets.

Not all is bleak, of course, as these channels of communication are actually often used for work-related pursuits, so even if the bulk of the exchanged files may actually be of cats, parrots, and iguanas, something useful may be sent along the way, who knows!

-A driven, leadership-loving culture

As you may have already figured out from the first couple of paragraphs in this article, millennials don’t really like to be led. Instead, they prefer to take on a leadership position for themselves and so organize their work environment to their own liking.

This, of course, is not always possible, but it’d be fair to say that most millennials are striving for it anyway. So, if you want to make a millennial happy, make sure to make good use of the good ole carrot-and-stick principle and present them with a clear goal and reward system they can respond to positively.

-Remote positions

One of the most notable things about millennials in the office culture would be that they’re nowhere to be found!

That’s right, a fair chunk of the millennial work might simply not be present in an office environment, because they’re remote workers. They get hired over the internet, work at home, and then send you the results of their efforts at the end of the workday. This seems like a fair exchange, and it is, but it does not exactly bode well for the formation of a healthy office culture.

-Decreased face-to-face communication

Speaking of the devil, one of the worst byproducts of the millennial way of working and living, in general, would be a certain lack of face-to-face conversations with their fellow humans. And fellow workers, as well.

Here’s how it often plays out: While working, millennials are concentrated on their work naturally. During the pause, many of them chose to look at YouTube videos or listen to music via headphones. Another break – the same story.

Breaks and even work hours are time slots where communication between co-workers happens, so skipping it means you won’t really reap all the benefits of working in an office, at least when it comes to the socializing aspect of it.

-Authenticity in their work

Millennials are notoriously afraid of looking and acting like everybody else. This is why they’ll go out of their way to wear colorful scarves, wear those glasses without magnification, and ensure their social media profiles are unique. (Ironically enough, this effort also sort of makes them all look alike, but oh well.)

At work, the story doesn’t change dramatically. For your average millennial, ensuring that they’ve done a task their way is often more important than doing the task itself, so allowing them to be authentic in their approach to work is of crucial importance for their success.

-Personal values vs. company values

Enough time has passed since the first millennials had entered the workplaces for them to become managers and seniors at their respective companies. As they’ve started occupying these important positions, millennials have brought with them a certain wind of change when it comes to the way they view their jobs.

For example, many of them claim to make decisions based more on their personal beliefs, values, and gut feeling than charts, numbers, and the desire to see the company profit. Incorporating environmentalism in a company’s agenda and plans for the future also seems to be a big part of this trend.

Just how smart this shift is – remains to be seen.

-They desire more autonomy

Regardless of the position they occupy, millennials, as a rule, desire and expect to be treated equally to their peers. More importantly, they always seek to maintain a certain level of autonomy when it comes to the way they approach their tasks and go about their professional duties.

This probably goes back to their introverted nature, but it also highlights the never-ending desire to be independent, even if it means staying at a non-leadership position, just with broader autonomy.

-They desire more flexibility

Millennials, on the whole, aren’t really afraid of losing their jobs. Therefore, they tend to demand different concessions from their employers more boldly and expect to be able not to adhere to the workplace discipline code as firmly.

For this reason, they often don’t understand what they’ve done wrong if they’re constantly late, or tend to downplay their responsibility whenever they do a job badly. Also, millennials like more pauses, less intense work, and more flexibility in the office on every level.

-Open offices

If it’s one thing that millennials hate about a regular desk job, it’s the cubicle. (And who’s to blame them, really?) Getting shepherded in your patch of secluded work space at the beginning of each workday does really come across as both a dehumanizing and a motivation-killing procedure.

To change this up, millennials have come up with a new way of organizing offices, where the whole room is open (meaning without barriers), and where co-workers can see and talk to each other if necessary.

This may be the case because, in the past, people were talkative and jolly, so the barriers need to be introduced to make them work harder. Nowadays, where a large part of the population is introverted anyway, these are not necessary anymore.

-They want a job with a purpose

Accounting and filing endless reports sound much more attractive if you have some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. A common goal the entire office works towards can give your millennial employees that extra boost of motivation they need to get through a workday.

For many millennials, the environmental bend on your line of work will also be interesting to hear, so if you can, make sure to present your employees with a clear way what you’re doing is connected to saving the planet.

-Millennials expect transparency

This will probably sound terrible, but millennials seem to lean more towards socialism than capitalism, and you can really feel it in the workplace.

For example, they expect more autonomy in their position, a direct line of communication with their boss, and more insight into the company’s decisions at the highest levels. Come to think about it, this arrangement does not look too bad at all. Understanding where your company’s going and how it’s being run is essential for a worker’s sense of purpose and motivation.

-Less time spent talking during coffee breaks

Thanks to computers, tablets, iPhones, and other means of distraction, many millennial workers skip their coffee breaks in favor of watching funny videos on their own. Now, lest we are too harsh to the millennials as a generation, those that do take their time to spark meaningful conversations with their colleagues usually look forward to their coffee breaks, even if they’re just 10 minutes long.

If you’re an employer looking to make your workplace more lively and cheerful, installing a coffee machine in your office will be all you need to do. Companies such as BluePod coffee machines offer excellent models at affordable prices, so if you’re planning in this direction, definitely check them out.

-Comfortable work environment

Lazy bags, comfy chairs, and laptops you can plug in wherever you like – this is what millennial workers desire in an office.

More than having complete privacy, as was the case with the cubicle-based offices, millennials seek to feel at ease in their workplace. Almost as if they aren’t at work at all but at home.

-More contract workers – less carriers

Since millennials aren’t really afraid to change jobs, they often do. This creates a certain discontinuity that many employers aren’t too fond of, so a fair number of them prefer hiring contract workers rather than full-time employees.

Contract workers are more eager to prove themselves, are obligated by their contract – what’s not to love?

All things considered, the millennial office culture is a radically different place from the offices before the introduction of this generation into the workforce. Whether you like it or not, millennials are here to stay, so finding a way to work with them is essential for the future of your business.


Leila Dorari is an entrepreneur, freelance writer and business-improvement enthusiast from Sydney. Currently, she is consulting companies on various effects different marketing solutions can have on their business. In her spare time you can usually find her hiking with her furry four-legged friend.

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