The ‘new normal’ isn’t being touted as an experimental, shaken up way of working anymore, and parts of the routine of pre-Covid life are evidently missed. While each generation has had its own unique challenges throughout the pandemic, from a work perspective, Millennials have been given an opportunity to have significant flexibility that they often craved. As reopening plans form in line with mass vaccinations, to what extent do millennials miss office life?
As we approach the one-year anniversary of fleeing the office, the fatigue of the pandemic and its impact on work-life has taken its toll on people. The first quarter of the year was hard for people to work through - severe weather hampered a daily walk and new financial targets were set. The typical ‘reset’ we see in the new year was more of a shutdown.
After the height of the holiday season, finding inspiration and new ideas in the home office environment was a struggle. While workplace productivity statistics have generally been positive in showing people are as productive, if not more, than they were pre-pandemic, the routine of video and calls in a solitary working environment is stifling creativity and thus making it harder to solve client problems. We are succeeding at process, but not problem-solving.
This is where millennials are missing the benefits of in-person office interactions. The initial transition to remote work ignored the social aspects of office life - the holiday parties, the camaraderie, and war stories that are not always obvious or appreciated day to day. Social capital has been reduced, and it’s hitting workplace creativity.
Lack of micro-disruptions to a daily routine is also having a negative impact. Not being able to walk a different route between the station and the office, grabbing coffee with a colleague, or instantly being able to solve small problems without the barriers of a virtual office impacts a person’s ability to think of new ideas. Studies show that taking a proper break from work, including lunch, was on the decline, which further dampens peoples’ daily interactions when working remotely and forces them to stare at a screen all day.
Creativity in the workplace is not just driven by the individual. Small interactions, time outside of work, and other factors contribute to thinking creatively and thus help individuals and teams make changes and deliver new ideas for their clients.
The lack of real interaction is impacting business development opportunities. While supporting clients and building a different connection for some has been a benefit of lockdown and working from home life, the ability to break into new markets and clients is still a challenge that is hard to overcome through a computer.
While customers can have one close contact to hand, the lack of variety from in-person connections will reduce a person’s ability to see new and radical changes in the market - how do you ensure diversity standards are met, see new products and ideas, or build new relationships should anything with your existing suppliers go wrong? Change is good and disrupts the status quo.
In-person training and development is also a key part of this conversation, particularly for onboarding new hires who want to feel they are part of a real team. Interpersonal interaction is the cornerstone of successful business relationships and growth, the tangibility of those connections is important.
So where is the balance in the post-Covid world? Taking the good parts of office life and moving forward with them is the key here for leadership implementing office return policies. Retaining social aspects of work-life, perhaps by creating structured flexibility, will encourage those off-desk connections and facilitate further collaboration that adds to business growth.
It’s all about flexibility. Millennials are adaptable and get the task at hand done. The bigger question here is about taking that flexible model and teasing out the challenges faced with remote working that impact organizational growth and making them happen in person, while still fostering a culture that is forward-thinking and adaptable. Ultimately, a hybrid model of an office return will ensure higher retention for an organization, productivity, and prosperity for businesses in the future.