“Excuse me, sir.”
“Uhh… Are you alright?”
The man sitting in front of my desk had slumped in his chair while I wasn’t looking, his eyes closed.
Seeing as he was well into his 80s, that got me worried. But a light snore soon set my mind at rest.
The guy had just fallen asleep. Phew.
I didn’t blame him, for I had almost fallen asleep myself countless times as I read out middling policies and filled out forms for customers… by hand.
Time often stood still when I worked in the private banking industry — and people weren’t happy, not on the customer side nor the employees.
Back To The Future
That’s how I felt clocking out of work at the end of my day.
I worked in traditional banking from 2015 to 2017. But stepping into the office felt like traveling back to 1985. It was a time-warp.
I was expected to be physically present at the same place and same time every day for the same amount of hours — whether there was work to be done or not. Phones were to be locked away, and the internet was censored.
But, more importantly, the day-to-day processes were extremely inefficient. Whether it was opening a new bank account, making a deposit or processing a loan, everything was manual from start to finish.
I’d fill in forms by hand then type them up on the aging computer, which meant simple appointments often ran over 2 hours. Decisioning processes typically took 5 to 7 working days, or even longer.
For a guy who had his first internet connection at 11 years old, and was used to web pages loading on their phone in under 3 seconds, this was unfathomable.
There had to be a better way. Well, there was a better way.
So why were we tied to antiquated systems and a rigid, inflexible work schedule?
A New Way To Work
I’m not alone in feeling like this.
Having grown up in a connected world, my generation is accustomed to getting things done faster. But, more to the point, we’ve embraced flexibility from a young age, we’re comfortable taking ownership and we like feeling empowered.
Technology allows us to design our workday the way each of us prefers it. We can get more done without having to sacrifice time with family and friends and other things that are important.
The simple fact is that, in this day and age, there’s no need to build your life around your work. As long as you have a laptop and an internet connection, you can work anywhere, at any time. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that we view the rigid, office-based workplace structure as antiquated and unnecessary.
As Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel puts it:
“The traditional 9-to-5 office job doesn’t adequately support the lives millennials and Gen Zs want to live. They are flexible-work natives, raised during and after the dotcom bubble, where the acceleration of technology has sped up exponentially over time.”
Taking The Workplace From 1985 To 2019
This year, Generation Z — those born after 1996 — will make up 32% of the global population. The eldest has just finished or are about to finish college. And, by 2025, we’ll make up 31% of the workforce.
Seeing as employees are the face of your company, I think it’s about time we adapt the workplace and bring it in line with the times. Happy employees are more productive, more loyal and more effective. And, ultimately, it’s your customers who’ll benefit.
So what should the modern workplace look like, in my view?
Well, for starters, it’s all about flexibility. We’re more than happy to be connected round the clock. After all, that’s what we’ve been used to almost all our lives. But the beauty of having this level of access is that it can set you free.
A Stanford University study found that, over a 9 month period, flexible workers were happier, achieved more and took fewer sick days. And — would you know it? — they actually worked longer hours.
I’m not surprised.
Working from home makes the day seem to go by much faster. I can enjoy a leisurely lunch and make up for it in the evening. Or, I can deal with an issue Sunday night and take things easier Monday morning. There’s no counting the clock down and feeling like you’re being forced to work.
But, more to the point, the workplace should be about doing things smarter, not harder.
This is not to say we aren’t prepared to roll up our sleeves. We are. A survey run by recruitment website Monster found we expect to work harder than our older siblings the Millennials. But with technology at our fingertips, there’s no reason why repetitive tasks should take over the day-to-day.
Automating admin-heavy processes such as applications, pricing policies, onboarding and decisioning frees up your employees — young and old — to focus on what really matters. It also saves time, saves money and helps you serve your customers better.
And, as a business, isn’t that what you want?