I remember my dad and I went to visit a good childhood friend of mine at the public relations firm she works at, and we’d been walking through her office for several minutes before my dad even realized we were in there. “Where is this office anyways?” my dad asked. “We are in it!” I said. To my dad, that was no office. That was more like a lobby where adults were moving around on scooters and enjoying lattes out of high-tech machines on puffy floor cushions that looked like they belonged in a kindergarten…for grownups?
My dad is old school. You have to understand that he comes from a time when going to an office meant getting out of an elevator that let out right in front of a busy-looking secretary at a massive desk—meant to create distance between the clients and the professionals—surrounded by two solid, opaque doors that concealed, behind them, long hallways of people quietly, seriously working alone in cubicles. It all felt very important. Maybe there was smooth jazz playing, a traditional water cooler, and a standard coffee pot brewing pretty bad coffee that was served in little paper (not environmentally-friendly) cups.
Now, here, at my friend’s workplace, a white woman in a kimono holding a poodle mix introduced herself as the office manager—but said she preferred to call herself the creativity facilitator. Okay…Workplace culture has changed so much in the last decade or so, wouldn’t you say? We are a generation that is concerned with the idea that our work should meld with our personalities and our passions. Work is not supposed to be something we “get over with” or “survive” from 9 to 5, as our parents and their parents did. It’s so much more. Here are ways workplace culture has transformed over the last decade.
A concern with workplace culture
First and foremost, the very fact that the concept of “workplace culture” exists is relatively new. “Work isn’t a culture,” my dad would say. “Work is work. Sweden is a culture.” But today, there is this concern around making sure the workplace has a distinct vibe—an essence, if you will—and that the employees are happy.
Hours are flexible
Today, so many people who work “9 to 5” don’t really work those hours. They can work 10 to 6, 10 to 7, 9 to 4. It seems in many offices, the general rule is so long as you get your work done on time, I don’t care during which hours you get it done. People can leave early on a Friday or duck out for dentist’s visits without putting in notice two weeks early with their managers.
Between the emergence of the emotional support animal and the knowledge that animals are generally good for one’s wellbeing, you find many more dogs hanging out in upscale offices today. If you don’t, it’s because the office has a “no pets” policy—but the very fact that a policy on pets must exist is new.
There’s always new tech to learn
New platforms for tracking the progress of campaigns, communicating with coworkers, promoting on social media, and so much more, are constantly being developed. That means that, in addition to doing one’s job, people are also always having to learn new ways to do their jobs.
Every day is casual Friday
We seem to be doing away with the belief that professionals must dress, well, professional. You may not necessarily find professionals in tracksuits or sweat pants at work, but the nice jean, graphic t-shirt, blazer combination has become highly popular. Collared shirts and ties seem to be reserved for hedge funds and banks—if even those.
Wellness events and activities
Many companies are becoming increasingly concerned with the overall wellbeing of their employees—both when they’re in the office, and when they aren’t. Companies will host things like yoga classes during lunch or nutrition seminars after-hours. They look more for ways to enhance the overall lives of their staff members.
A playful setting
Offices are becoming more playful in aesthetic. It’s not rows and rows of cubicles and bosses hidden behind tall, heavy, dark doors that make it feel like you’re visiting the Wizard of Oz when you just need to ask a simple question. Open floor plans are all the rage, so that people don’t feel so isolated. Furniture is colorful. Artwork is modern and provocative even.
Mixed with focus zones
Within these open floor plan offices you’ll find small focus zones, where people are meant to go when they’re deep in though, or need to hold a meeting. These may be soundproof rooms with sliding glass doors or even “think pods.” There is this clear separation of the social area, and the focus area. In my dad’s time, it was all the focus area.
Concern for comfort
Go in for a job interview and, in addition to telling you all about what the company does, the interviewer may also boast about the features of the office space. Ergonomic chairs. Three types of filtered water. Standing desks with little foot treadmills. It’s not all stiff office chairs and popcorn ceilings.
Language is casual
Walk into some of the most successful tech agencies and you’ll find people speaking very casually—swearing, even, or saying things like “Hashtag” and “Totes.” We aren’t meant to talk to our bosses or colleagues anymore like bosses or colleagues, but rather like friends.
Giving praise where it’s due
It’s a culture of praise and recognition. Billboards go up every month, highlighting the employees doing really well, or even just letting us know who has a birthday or who just got married or who just got a new puppy. There are all sorts of awards given out. It’s important that employees feel seen and appreciated.
There are so many ways for us to be in constant contact with our colleagues and employers. Between all of the online platforms that let us message each other all day long, if we have a question or comment, we can blast it out to the entire office in an instant, and they’re all looking at that platform.
But not real contact
Because of the increase in online contact, there is a decrease in real contact. We don’t have to walk over to a colleague’s desk to ask her a question. We don’t need to compose ourselves to approach the boss to point something out. It can all be done from the safety and privacy of our computers, which may or may not be affecting our in-person communication skills.
A heightened awareness of harassment
Fortunately, there has become a heightened awareness of harassment in the workplace. Many offices are cracking down on inappropriate behavior, and we no longer go to work feeling that putting up with uncomfortable words and gestures from a certain coworker is just part of the gig.
The hiring process is more inclusive
Companies are making a point to actively seek out and recruit more diverse candidates. They’re no longer relying on the excuse of, “Well, nobody from that demographic applied.” They are going out and searching for diverse applicants, with the understanding that a diverse staff makes for a stronger company.