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Keep 90's Nostalgia Out Of The Workplace

Parents of today’s younger workforce group faced a different world than today.

The logistics of the 1970’s to the 1990s had offices that were constructed with cubicles and c-suites to encourage independent work amongst employees for higher productivity. Work then was filled with landlines and hard copy files as technology was limited with the internet not even being created until 1990 and mobiles with email, Word processor, and personal computers only had been recently invented in the 1970s.

Employees during that time were also expected to be at work during their designated hours, with no early releases for family obligations or health appointments unless it fit into your lunch hour. The core message businesses were sending then was to prioritize work above family, and to put as many hours into work as possible in order to be successful, even if it meant missing family events such as dance recitals or soccer games.

Today there is a heavy focus on feeling safe and comfortable in the workplace and providing individuals opportunities to integrate their personal life values with work life. Things such as standing desks, office comfort, and work flexibility have been made available to staff to improve work morale. Companies like Google offer chef-made meals three times a day that are often farm-to-cafeteria type eating that promotes employee health and provide a variety of freshly made snacks. 

Other major tech companies such as Dropbox, Airbnb, Facebook, Etsy, Amazon and more are cutting their teeth into elevating the office experience with in house daycares, gyms, spa rooms, furthering education programs, and so many more perks!  Businesses want employees to collaborate internally with teams and promote externally with business partnerships or celebrity endorsements for their company.  

In the past five years alone we’ve seen our world change and evolve with various advancements. Studies on mental health and how it affects our physical health, technology (looking at you Apple), nutritional information, but one of the largest changes you can find worldwide is how work environments have evolved and changed as well as everything else we associate with a good work life. 

Since COVID-19 in 2019 though, with over 43% of US employees working remotely according to Gallup, there has been an opportunity for new working generations to reflect on what they really want, based on either their beginning work experience or from watching mom and dad. 

Here are the top 5 changes to note in recent years:

1. Diversity and Inclusion

Lack of diversity has been an issue for generations; it has only been in the past two decades that there has been significant change put into effect. With diversity training only starting in the late 1990’s and growing in the 2000’s it was only in 2014 where many name brand tech companies started publishing annual diversity reports. But the conversation around diversity has evolved from being about persuading companies about the necessity for diversity to tackling core issues that minorities face in the workplace such as microaggressions, unconscious bias, and building anit-racist workplace culture. Consumers have also increasingly been holding businesses accountable for diversity and inclusion with cancel culture, especially since the civil unrest during the summer of 2020.

2. Remote Work Is An Option

With remote working stemming from necessity from 2019 to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has wedged itself into employee schedule flexibility with many employees still working remotely post-COVID or having many companies start a hybrid combination of in-person and remote work or some of the few who are keeping employees remote indefinitely. Telecommuting has many benefits such as reducing carbon emission from commuting to work via car, bus, or subway & trax system. Others allow for family flexibility for those who can’t afford child care and working at the same time.

3. Gender Pay Gap Gaining Attention

While similar to the trending climb as diversity and inclusion, workplace inequality due to gender has been garnering more attention in recent years compared to what working individuals faced pre-2000’s. This issue still has a long way to go, but according to Pew Research in 2020 there was an estimated 16-cent gender pay gap among all workers compared to 36 cents in 1980. Slow moving, but still making progress. Especially as social media has become a platform for women in addressing work issues such as this.

4. Benefit Makeover

What our parents may have thought was a good benefit package has evolved as time has gone on. With traditional benefits including decent health insurance, a few weeks of paid vacation, and if you’re lucky enough a 401(k). But in the past five to ten years top talent tech companies have revamped their efforts to entice employees to stay with one reportedly offering unlimited vacation, while other companies are including retirement savings, assisting with student loan debts, or even some such as Apple, Microsoft, Netflix are offering stipends for young females to assist with IVF or egg freezing. Benefits just became a lot more customizable for employees and an added bargaining chip for interviews that often benefit employees and employers alike when it comes to job security and employee retention. 

5. Mental Health Is No Longer Taboo

It’s estimated that nearly 26% of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. That’s nearly 1 in 4 adults that experience some sort of depression, anxiety, PTSD or other form of mental illness that inhibits their ability to function in a productive manner at full speed compared to the average person. Historically, the workplace hasn’t been the best at being able to talk about it, let alone lend assistance to its employees. But as recent studies have become public and more people professionally and in personal lives have become willing to talk about their struggles, many businesses have started to take action. In a survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson in May 2020, 77% of companies reported that they were offering or expanding the mental health services they offer to employees. 

The learning curve that businesses have had in recent years is that in today's market, it has become an employee's world. And they aren’t afraid to demand change or to ask for more to go with their work efforts and are willing to leave a company for another that is more aligned with their life values and personal goals.

With how much change has been brought about in one generation, it will be interesting to see how the workforce changes in the next 20 years…


The Brightbox Team

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