Welcome to our second LAVNCH EMEA wrap-up article of the day, where I’ll be recapping for you #AVtweeps the Workforce Session of UCC Collaborative Day. Missed it live? Read my recap below, then register for the LAVNCH EMEA archives. (You must read the entire article to get the CTA, though — no cheating.)
I was really excited about this session in particular. While I’ve enjoyed all the others so far, the subject matter of this one really called to me. The title: “Here Come the Millennials: The Impact of Changing Generations in the Workforce.” Yeah, okay, maybe I’m interested because I’m a millennial. But I did have another thought leading into this, since millennials have already been in the workplace for some time. If we’re now talking about the latest generation entering the workforce, perhaps we could also say, “Here comes Generation Z.”
Anyway, this session’s aim: To discuss how cultural changes in global workforces — linked by, but not exclusively, a generational shift — will change how and where we work. Leading the session was Adam Cox, who’s been with Futuresource for more than 14 years. (Ask him, and he’ll tell you the exact time.)
To start, see the breakdown of generations in Cox’s image below. As you move through the generations, Cox explained, the importance of work-life balance grows. Traditional work values are challenged as the generations progress. Also, as you move generations, it becomes more about “experiences,” Cox added. Things like financial security, desire for stable healthcare and other values are very different between sectors. As employers, we must respect those differences. Different generation, different values.
Moving onto COVID-19’s effect on UCC, “It’s impacted everything,” Cox said.
- Communication has been revolutionized.
- Videoconferencing usage has increased significantly compared to pre-pandemic levels.
- The way we use workspaces, like meeting rooms, is also shifting.
All this said, we’re just now trying to wrap our heads around the changes. Collaboration is more than just a technological change, Cox argued. UCC tech is now central to our lives. Students today are being educated and brought up with collaboration tools — like interactive displays.
Joining the session midway was Dr. Harriet Shortt, associate professor in organization studies at University of the West of England. Dr. Shortt works with all types of workers: not just office workers but hairdressers, nurses, academics, students.
Dr. Shortt pointed out that the workspace impacts everyone in different ways — even on the everyday, mundane level. These impacts include behavior, information, leadership, communication, values, collaboration and culture. Through her research, largely measured through visual cues, she can show how workspace influences workplace interactions — like how workers construct identities of work using space and objects, and how new workspaces are impacting our working practices.
A key finding is that no-man’s-land spaces (called “liminal spaces”) — like corridors, toilets, cupboards, side streets, stairwells, doorways — are not defined as part of the office. But these spaces are important; they differ from the dominant, defined workspaces like meeting rooms. Dr. Shortt pointed out that open-plan offices allow for managerial control, because in an open office we can be seen. Interestingly, people are actually seeking out the liminal, or undefined, spaces to hide and escape in opposition. Liminal spaces are used for relationship-building, having private conversations, and a lot more. The impact we should consider: These spaces are often where business actually gets done, where decisions get made, where learning actually occurs, or where we might just find a few minutes of quiet.
A key finding from @HarrietShortt’s research:
People seek out liminal, or in-between spaces, to maintain relationships, find inspiration and “escape” from our primary workspaces.
— rAVe [PUBS] (@rAVePubs) September 3, 2020
Having some sense of place and ownership is important to people, because we are inherently territorial. This is something to consider regarding the downsides of the hot-desking approach. There’s also a conversation to be had around shared spaces — kitchens, couches, high-tables, etc. These collaborative spaces actually present a complexity and challenge; who gets to use them and when? As soon as you recognize and define a shared space (by adding food or deeming it an “innovation corridor” with a display screen, for example), it now becomes defined — it is no longer a liminal space.
In our use of open offices, have we forgotten the human’s natural desire for privacy? Could we add a role that specifically helps define the function of these confusing shared spaces? How can we use visual methods — like sharing photographs of our at-home workspaces — to construct a sense of “team” virtually while also respecting privacy and appreciating people’s individuality?
Dr. Shortt’s takeaways:
If you missed the Workforce Session on UCC Collaborative Day and want to rewatch it, you can still register to view the archives. Do that here before catching the next story: