December 21, 2017

The United States got rid of the ‘cubicle concept’ and embraced diversity in the working environment

In a previous blog series, we used international research to highlight how one’s geographic environment and culture affects his or her expectations in the workplace. We reported that Europeans are quite reserved when it comes to work-related changes, whereas employees in the Asia-Pacific region are the most optimistic.

Now it is time to consider those findings in the context of Planon employees throughout the world. Danielle Rosenwein, HR Advisor at Planon North America shares her views on this topic in the blog below, which is the fourth and final in our series: ‘The changing work environment’.

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Old movies aren't realistic

The dated, traditional office spaces depicted in American movies and television shows, such as Office Space or Mad Men, always have cubicles where employees sit behind their colourless desks, afraid of their boss who only comes out of his private office when something goes wrong. However, the reality is quite different in most US workplaces. In modern work environments, most employees dislike the cubicle setting. Most employees: both millennials and non-millennials seem to prefer an open, flexible environment. People in the United States also tend to want to be included in the conversation and decisions being made, instead of just simply taking part in a daily routine.

Workplaces that were once notorious for lack of diversity have become more open to inclusion and embrace individuals from diverse cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities. This change was not only due to HR hiring quotas, but mostly because organizations recognize the value of diversity and the innovative ideas that come along with having employees bring their own expertise and outlook into the workplace. Diversity also encourages employees to break cultural barriers and understand one another from different perspectives. 

We have seen a shift in the last decades to open environments replacing isolated workspaces, such as cubicles. Rather than employees simply taking directions from bosses, a two-way communication is not only acknowledged, but encouraged. Where upper management is more vocal in asking for feedback from employees, which makes working environments much more inclusive and collaborative. The original working environments of the past accepted the concept of less experienced employees following directions quietly, but now we fully embrace “junior” employees providing innovative ideas and insights to their more experienced colleagues.

Offices have evolved into flexible “shared spaces” and in some cases there is no “office.” Instead some organizations utilize spaces like WeWork, where people from different organizations and industries can rent or book workspace alongside each other. This flexibility is a fantastic way to meet new people and to discover innovative ideas. A similar concept can be said for the work itself. We work long hours, but we feel that we have the flexibility to do the work when and where we want. In the US, it is quite common to never “unplug” or to turn off our electronic devices. It’s not that we don't value a work life balance, but we may not necessarily focus on this freedom as much as other countries.

Enthusiastic about new technology

As Americans, we appreciate flexible working environments and working hours, in order to better plan ahead and to improve productivity. This is the reason that we are enthusiastic about innovative technologies at work. We are constantly looking for ways to be more productive and efficient. Employees want to use technology to perform better, organizations embrace new technologies because they understand what their employees want and need in their daily job, to help with attracting new talent, in order to be competitive in the market.

This willingness to change and become flexible will continue to develop in the next years, in my opinion. I believe that we will continue to become much more collaborative, open and adaptable. One example is that some organizations experiment with flexible time off and unlimited paid time off. Studies have proven that it can be very productive for particular jobs. It really works well for organizations that develop products, for example, because then the focus is about the excellence of what is being produced and not necessarily how you get there.

The facility manager has an excellent position, because he or she has the opportunity to contribute to creating an ideal working environment that fosters collaboration and equality. Combining different cultures, religions, and generations can be a challenge, but for the most part in the United States, diversity does not restrict us, but rather enables us to benefit from new ideas for a better future.