Intergenerational Offices: How Can We Become Better at Working Together?
Differing work cultures, work styles, and various deadlines can all lead up to tension in the workplace. Between the several generations that are currently working, each one shaped their various economical, social, and technological advances of their time, there is a myriad of differences between each and every person you have ever worked with. Within the current working age, there can be up to 5 different generations in the office; Traditionalists (1925–1945) makes up around 2% of the workforce, Baby Boomers(1946-1964) make up 25%, Generation X (1965–1980) makes up 33%, Gen Y or Millennials (1981-1995) is around 35% of the workforce, and Gen Z (1995-2010) is starting into the workplace at around 5% (1). The Census Bureau says that we will continue to have multiple generations working together, even in the next 20 years, with the addition of the Alpha generation (born in 2010) starting to work in and around the office around 2025.
Technology is currently being blamed as one of the great dividers of generations, but technology in the office is something we have come to depend on and many cannot see that going away any time soon. How can we expect people who are not familiar with using touch screens and video conferencing to suddenly be forced to using them every day? How can we expect younger employees to use slow antiquated systems that are tricky and not as efficient because this is “what we have always used”? Donald A. Norman once said, “Technology may change rapidly, but people change slowly. The principals [that we live by] come from the design of people. They remain true forever.”
How can we combat these differences in the workplace? Communication is key, but with each generation’s approach to their preferred mode of communication and their aversion to others, it can become quite difficult. It is about all about the discourse; learning from one another and listening to one another. We are living in a very interesting time; technology is evolving at an exponential rate and we are trying to just keep up. The more we talk with one another, learn, and discuss new strategies, the quicker we can become proactive rather than reactive when presented with a new challenge. What could hinder us could quickly become our greatest strength. Having the ability to take information from both the knowledgeable and adaptable, not fighting it but rather embracing it, allows for more open lines of communication and more openness for accepting change and whatever else the future may throw at us.
“Blessed is the generation in which the old listen to the young, doubly blessed is the generation in which the young listen to the old” - The Talmud
Curious to see what generation you fit in? Scan the QR code below and take the quiz!
1 Pew Research Center. 2018. “More than a third of the workforce are Millennials” April 10. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/11/millennials-largest-generation-us-labor-force/ft_18-04-02_genworkforcerevised_bars1/