Baby Boomers: Taking Advantage of the Digital Workspace

It can be argued that no generation in the workforce takes more advantage of the digital workspace than the generation that first brought the digital era into being: Baby Boomers. Although often overlooked in discussions of workspace technology, Boomers—the business and technical decision makers for a majority of enterprises today—are not only responsible for much of the present shape of the digital workspace but also will continue exerting profound influence on its future evolution. And with the vast majority of younger Boomers still in their 50s and working full- or part-time, all signs point to their continued involvement in the workforce for many years to come.

Bridging Technologies and Generations

As the generation that invented the PC, email, videogames, the iPhone, and virtually every network computing technology—including network virtualization—Baby Boomers surprisingly receive little respect when it comes to characterizing their relationship to workplace technology. Younger, digitally-native generations typically view Boomers as older people who aren’t particularly savvy about tech. But the fact is, Boomers are the generation that transformed a workplace built on fixed and wired analog technology into a digital one, independent and wireless. And having helped build this modern digital world, Boomers appear to be just as eager for continued digital transformation and all the benefits it can bring as millennials, Generation Z, or any other future digitally-native generation.

A unique characteristic of the Baby Boomer generation is its sheer demographic size and scope. Boomers are generally considered to be the 80 million individuals born between 1946 and 1964. This population boom coincided with a post-war economic boom that fueled an unprecedented expansion of the middle class in the United States and around the globe.

Increased financial and educational opportunities allowed the Boomers to question the status quo. As a result, they are typically characterized as independent, confident, and self-reliant. These values and opportunities helped lead to a period of unprecedented social change that included redefining the meaning of work for the Boomer generation, from something one had to do to an expression of self worth and actualization. This attitude toward work has been a consistent driver of workplace technology evolution ever since, from the analog technology of the electric typewriter to the digital technology of the digital workspace.

Engagement and the Employee Experience

The Boomer generation’s long history with technology change allows them to feel familiar and comfortable with new technology. A Pew Research study predicts that based on workplace technology behavior, the Internet of Things (IoT) will not be a problem for this generation. They are prepared for digital transformation. In fact, the majority of technology spending on consumer digital devices comes from this generation.

Boomers account for 40 percent of all technology spending versus all the other generations in the workforce. And nearly 70 percent of Boomers use more than one digital device. A recent Nielsen study revealed that Boomers are possibly even more excited than millennials when it comes to a flexible workspace and new technology. The study found that 52 percent of Boomers tend to use their digital devices during meals, a behavior practiced by less than 45 percent of the other generations in the workforce.

Existing research from the Economist Intelligence Unit also demonstrates conclusively that the productivity of Boomers increases in direct relationship to a more engaged workplace and employee experience. Indeed, 50 percent of all Boomers believe that poor workplace technology inhibits their own personal and professional productivity.

Recent research is also making clear that organizations suffer financially when Boomers are ignored and left out of new training and other workplace initiatives. A 2016 survey conducted in Australia revealed Boomers treated this way felt less energized by their jobs and reported engagement levels that were nearly 20 percent lower than in more welcoming environments. To put this data into perspective, research on bottom line impact shows that companies with lower employee engagement suffer an average 8 percent loss in shareholder return versus companies reporting even average engagement.

The Employee-Centric Digital Workspace

It is clear from existing research that digital workspace technology that focuses on the needs of employees is no longer just a good idea subjectively but also a good idea objectively, from the perspective of an organization’s bottom line. Employee-centric digital workspace technology, such as VMware® Workspace ONE, improves and enhances employee engagement by allowing each generation in the multi-generational workforce to work securely, productively, and happily the way it prefers.