Our society demands connectivity. Through constant Facebook and Twitter updating, texting and the like the millennial generation has become all too adept at "staying in touch". While childhood friends move out-of-state for college, and college friends graduate to the next stage of life, technology has allowed us to maintain relationships. Now, not only are we able to keep in touch with old friends as life moves us to different places, but we can also meet strangers from all over the world and work alongside people with whom we may never have the opportunity to shake hands. With the benefits of modern technology serving us at work, the question arrises: how will the workplace change for the millennial generation?
Many people, including Naomi Simson, founding director of RedBalloon, see the use of social media, email, and other electronic methods of communication as not only an "evolution", but a "revolution" for the future workplace. Below, I have summarized her Five New Rules Of Work:
1) Work is no longer a daily commute to the office. You can work from home so long as you have a computer and internet connection.
2) "9-to-5" becomes "24-7". Work can happen whenever you want, wherever you want.
3) Rather than the traditional "full-time job with benefits" you are free to work on as many (or as little) projects as you want.
4) "Work-life" and "home-life" become one.
5) Your "work" is your "passion".
These "new rules" are very familiar to me. As a research assistant, my current internship takes place in front of a computer. I am part of a team consisting of two other co-researchers each based in different parts of the country, one of whom I have not met in person. We communicate each day through email and text messaging. I thoroughly enjoy the research I am doing and I marvel at how modern technology shrinks our world and allows us to work so closely with someone so far away. Yet sitting in the chilly lab with nothing but my laptop, my cell phone, and hundreds of manila colored files for company, I cannot help but feel a little lonely.Our environment is key when it comes to working productively and effectively. It is for this reason that I choose to do my homework in the science library at my college, where the only noise is the occasional shhhh that mutes a quiet whisper, as opposed to the comfort of my dorm room. In this same way, a certain workplace environment may be vital in order for teams to work effectively. Business journalist David Amerind highlights the importance of culture:
"A healthy organization has a culture that allows the sharing of values and ideas, the formation of a corporate identity, and the sense of competitive urgency that allows a company to be agile and innovative".
Telecommunication has been essential to businesses and organizations. Technology connects people, and allows for rapid dispersal of ideas. This being said, the phenomenon of "working from home", which has been gaining popularity in recent years, cannot be a replacement for the type of community that is only available in a more traditional workplace. In my opinion, the “Five new rules of work” apply to projects (like the study I am working on) and passions (like writing for the Odyssey). Yet we cannot undermine the importance of actual human-to-human contact, especially when it comes to a happy workplace. Simson recognizes this, stating, “supervisors might not see or be present when team members do amazing work”. Does this not devoid a workplace of the positive reinforcement a supervisor may give to his or her employees? And what of workplace relationships? They would become obsolete.
A happy medium must be found between the two by incorporating modern technology and communication into the traditional workplace environment.