Belfast Telegraph

How millennials have changed offices

Glandore’s modern open plan offices at Arthur House, Belfast
Glandore’s modern open plan offices at Arthur House, Belfast

By Nial Borthistle, business development manager, Glandore

The millennial era has transformed how the modern workplace operates - from a 9-5 office to places we can effectively do our jobs, ensuring we look after ourselves emotionally, mentally and physically.

The thought of employers offering healthy snacks, Fitbits and starting lunchtime walking clubs was unheard of 10 years ago.

The USA is the global leader when it comes to workplace wellbeing with businesses like Facebook and Google at the forefront. A vast number of IT firms with offices in Northern Ireland are part of larger American headquartered organisations and wellbeing incentives are used as tools to attract and maintain the most talented people in the industry.

In one of our most competitive sectors, manufacturing companies are leading the charge through technology.

But is technology the answer to a happier and more productive workforce?

Recently, on the sunlit rooftop terrace of our Arthur House offices, we hosted our 'Making Wellbeing a Priority in the Workplace' event with a stellar panel discussing this issue.

Technology has transformed the way we go about our every day lives, how we communicate and how we do our jobs.

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Working in the digital age has its downsides though. The faster we are able to communicate and interact, by email, text or instant message, the more we seem compelled to do it.

More companies are offering techy perks to employees such as fitness trackers, gym membership and step counters.

It may seem like a positive way to boost workplace wellbeing but is this technology becoming a hindrance? People can become obsessed with how many steps they've taken, how long they've exercised for and how many calories they've eaten.

Suddenly employees are focused on everything but their work, creating a negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing.

For many, technology has already erased work-life boundaries, increased expectations of performance and taken away 'time to reflect'.

Technology needs to be managed and controlled in the right way for it to be effective. Sometimes that falls to the employee to know when to draw the line, for example not replying to emails on holidays or late at night.

I hear people say culture needs to start from the top and work its way down, but wellbeing programmes should be employee-led.

What a CEO thinks will improve morale isn't necessary what staff want or need. Wellbeing starts with listening and needs analysis, and then a company can formulate a plan.

At Glandore, wellbeing is not just a tick-box exercise. It is about really getting to know what our members and employees need at a deeper level and making sure we retain the best staff.

One of our panellists on the night was Kathy Bell from FinTrU and it's obvious to see why that business is such an attractive proposition for employees.

The best companies continue to evolve and stay ahead of trends. When one initiative isn't satisfying the needs of its employees, its back to the drawing board and on to the next thing.

Customers are the most important aspect of any business but recognising the wellbeing of your staff is critical to a happy productive workforce.

We spend one third of our lives in work and the reality is employers need to be more open to implementing programmes to look after staff, physically, mentally and emotionally. Those who do will surely reap the rewards.

Nial Borthistle is business development manager at Glandore, a company specialising in serviced offices with premises at Arthur Street, Belfast

Belfast Telegraph