The Digital Workspace: Spanning the Generations

This is the first in a series of articles on how the digital workspace affects the dominant generations in the workforce. Look for subsequent articles in this series on Radius over the coming months.

The digital workspace is a bridge that spans multiple generations in today’s workforce. It uniquely provides the capabilities to allow different generations to work productively in the way each prefers to work. Today’s workforce is particularly unique in that five generations are represented. For all of these generations, the digital workspace provides the flexibility and tools needed to create a harmonious, mobile, and productive workforce.

Not Just for Millennials Anymore

Although it has become customary to associate digital technology with millennials—and to apply broad generalizations to each of the generations, for that matter—the reality is that all generations see value in improved collaboration and mobility tools that allow them to work anywhere, anytime, on any device.

A recent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report surveying the entire workforce found that 60 percent of all employees feel mobile technology makes them more productive, and 45 percent say it makes them more creative. Regardless of generation, a clear majority (53 percent) agree that it makes them more satisfied in their work. As the survey results make clear, the flexibility and freedom of the digital workspace make it attractive to all generations in the workforce.  

Baby Boomers: Taking Advantage of the Digital Workspace

As the generation that invented the PC, email, video games, the iPhone, and virtually every network computing technology, baby boomers surprisingly get little credit, compared to colleagues of younger generations, when it comes to characterizing their relationship to workplace technology. The reality is that baby boomers appear to be just as eager as millennials, or any other generation, for digital transformation and all the benefits it can bring.

Millennials: Shaping the Digital Workspace

Millennials—the generation born after 1981, also known as Generation Y—are now the largest demographic group in the workforce. As the generation that grew up surrounded by technology, millennials have led the technology revolution that is driving the digital transformation of the workplace. It is a revolution fueled by the demand for workplace technology that mirrors the mobility of their personal lives and the simplicity of consumer technology.

Generation X: Builders of the Bridge to the Digital Workspace

Sandwiched between the larger demographic groups of the baby boomers and the millennials, Generation X encompasses those born between 1965 and 1980. The members of this generation share the experience of coming of age in a computer-free world. Their generation built the bridge from the analog to the digital age. In the workforce, they are moving into management roles and using their experience bridging the analog-to-digital worlds to mentor their younger co-workers.

Generation Z: The Future of the Digital Workspace

Coming into the workforce by 2020, Generation Z is the first true social media generation. Also called the iGeneration, or iGen, this group has been growing up with digital devices from birth. As a result, Generation Z is considered incredibly adept at multitasking and may process information faster than any prior generation. They are constantly consuming digital content, social media, and videos—often on several devices simultaneously. While millennials are, in large part, shaping the digital workspace today, Gen Z will play an increasingly assertive role shaping that technology in the near future.

The Traditionalists: Manual Typewriters to the Digital Age

The smallest demographic group in the workforce, less than 2 percent, are those born before 1945. They are often referred to as the Silent or Traditionalist generation, and sometimes as the Greatest Generation for the role their oldest members played in defeating fascism in World War II. Primarily represented in enterprise upper management, they are often the individuals who set the strategic direction for their companies and, therefore, the pace of its digital transformation.

Employee Expectations and Digital Transformation

Just as employees drove the consumerization of information technology in the workplace, so too are they now becoming major drivers in demanding the adoption of the employee-centric technology of the digital workspace. As enterprises realize how the digital workspace enables all generations—not just the so-called “digital natives”—to feel empowered, more productive, and more creative in this transformation, one can expect that adoption of the digital workspace will continue to gather increasing momentum.