Do Boomers Have a Desk in the Workplace of the Future?

-BY BARBARA FRANKEL

I visited a chief diversity officer recently at what used to be her office. This is a powerful woman who is a major player in every way. The last time I visited her, she had a large corner office with a window and a magnificent view. This time, she showed me her temporary space, assigned to her for that week, which was out in a large open room with about 100 other people.
Had she been demoted and/or was she on the way out the door? Just the opposite, in fact. Her stock in the company had risen because she was one of the leaders to embrace what’s commonly known as the Workplace of the Future—open shared spaces without walls, separate spaces for private conversations, eating, socializing and playing games/ relaxing.

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The Workplace Of The Future

“At first, I was really uncomfortable about this. I had worked long and hard to have the prestige of a corner office and it represented a lot to me. Plus, I had a lot of stuff,” she told me. What changed her mind was that all the leaders were buying into this, so it wasn’t in any way a negative reflection on her or her status.
That, in my opinion, is the critical point in getting Boomer buy-in of what for most is a radical concept. If you single out a few people and ask them to give up their “space,” it is indeed perceived as a slap in the face.
If everyone, including those at the very top, is part of the change, it is perceived as teamwork, moving forward in a positive direction for the company.
The same can be said of diversity-and-inclusion efforts.
Think about it: If you are a white man and you are singled out and told it’s time you hired and promoted some women or Blacks, Latinos or Asians—and, by the way, we are ordering you to sponsor a resource group—you will view it as punitive, not an opportunity. But if everyone is on board, including your boss and the CEO, and you are all invested in this together, you are far more likely to perceive it as an opportunity—both for the company and for yourself.
Karole Lloyd, the Managing Partner in charge of EY’s Southeast Region, has been a strong proponent of the Workplace of the Future. The big benefits to sitting among her staff, she says, is that people get to ask her questions and have access to her so she’s able to guide and help them more. Her relationships with her employees are much stronger, she adds, as there is more time for immediate feedback and constructive criticism. And the opportunity for innovative team solutions is much greater.
Is there a loss of privacy? Not if, like EY, you design your workplace well and create enough places where people can have private conversations and work quietly if they need to. EY – Workspace of the Future
Yes, this is an adjustment for everyone. The chief diversity officer I mentioned earlier said that on the day she packed up her personal materials to take home from her office, she felt as if she was leaving the company she’d worked at for more than a decade.
“I took home three big boxes—one of stuff I thought I wouldn’t need, one of stuff I thought I might need, and one of stuff I knew I would need. Here’s the funny part: Three months later, they are all still in my garage. I don’t need them at all,” she says.
We don’t need a lot of “stuff” we think we do to succeed.
But we do need to feel valued and to understand why strategies impacting us are good for the business.