The Ergonomics Tsunami

April 22, 2015

TsunamiLately, we have been working with a few dynamic organisations who are taking a serious look at the trajectory of workplace ergonomics and the nature of work itself. As I have said elsewhere (and everyone knows), the work environment is changing very fast and, significantly, there are multiple influences.

  • For all knowledge workers (and many others), ‘workplace’ is now an IP address rather than a physical location.
  • Almost-universal Wi-Fi means that we can access information and communicate anywhere
  • Increasingly portable devices, with ever-extending battery life, further support our mobility
  • Simultaneously, employers are downsizing their real estate and reducing the number of desks on site. Hot desking, hoteling, co-worker hubs and home / smart / agile working are becoming widespread.

The list goes on.

One further impact, and perhaps the most dramatic, is the influx of Millennial (or Generation Y) personnel to the workplace. Their attitudes to entitlement, work-life balance, use of technology, privacy and many more of the concepts that older people take for granted are, at least, different and often radical. They have also been using technology of all types, in all sorts of locations and postures, almost since birth.

So why have I called the influx of millennials ‘The Ergonomics Tsunami’?

Because it’s coming, it’s enormous, it’s unstoppable and it’s potentially overwhelming.

I shall be writing more about this in due course but, in the meantime, here are some further resources:

If you read this before the event, you can attend the ErgoExpo webinar featuring Nigel Heaton of Human Applications, Ryan Pavey of Cardinus and myself. It will also be available subsequently as an on-demand video. This takes a primarily musculo-skeletal approach to some of the issues.

For a more psycho-social approach, you can start by looking here at some insight into the work done by Jim Taylour and Dr Patrick Jordan for Orangebox.

Millennials: Challenging Workplace Thinking

June 11, 2012

I was fascinated by Gerry Taylor’s Boomers and Millennials research in late 2011 and heard him speak at the Orangebox presentation during Clerkenwell Design Week 2012.  Inspired by his findings and my own interest and involvement in the growth of Smart Working and BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) projects, I have been thinking a lot about the inevitable changes that these three initiatives will bring about and the operational relationships between them.

Millennials (generally accepted to be those born between about 1980 and 2000) already have very different values from the Boomers (or Baby Boomers) born between 1946 and 1964.  This will inevitably impact workplace practices and, as a result, workplace design.

Before 2000, there was enormous concern about the “Millennium Bug”. This possible glitch in computer date calculations turned out to be a complete non-event and we can now see that the focus should have been on the population that has come of age since that date because its impact on the workplace will be monumental.

Most significant are their values, aspirations and expectations.  Many have been brought up with very supportive parents in an education system that avoided differentiation between winners and losers or any form of competitive sport.  As a result, they believe they are invincible! The management challenge here is obviously to channel that energy without crushing their dreams!  Offering them flexibility about when, where and how they work is potentially one element of this nurturing style of management and mentoring.  Management by objectives and outputs rather than by inputs is another.  These are key factors in a good Smart Working programme.  More ideas about managing Millennials can be found here.

Another obvious trait of Millennials is that they are “always connected”.  They thrive on social media and may seem surgically attached to their smartphone.  But the word “smartphone” now seems almost a misnomer since its use for telephone calls seems to be diminishing.  After emailing, texting, poking, pinging, tweeting or BBMing, phoning is more or less the last resort!  This means that communications styles will change and evolve, probably faster than they have ever done before.  Organisations who provide email management or brand voice training to protect corporate culture and values will need to consider a much broader set of media.

There are many statistics about the rapid growth in internet access from mobile devices but one that points most readily to Millennial users is that 50% of all online sales for Mother Day 2012 came from mobile devices.  As their personal and work activities merge, these users will obviously be pressing for BYOD to optimise their user experience, regardless of time, location or circumstances!

This flexibility of IT and communications devices and methods of work will suit the collaborative style of Millennials and their workplaces will need to reflect it.  Perhaps they will redefine our expectations of Smart Working. Perhaps they will bring about the invention of totally new environments and concepts.

These are exciting times!  This short piece touches on only tiny segments of an enormous, evolving canvas – which dissolves and reappears before your eyes.

What are your experiences? Are you a Millennial or do you manage Millennials?  Tell me what you think.

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