As Morgan Spencer celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, it’s amazing to reflect on how much the workplace has changed since we were first established. In 2000, most offices still had paper files and overhead projectors. Social media was a new concept, meetings were always in-person and actually the most efficient way for co-workers to communicate, and office culture was a barely-minted buzzword in the HR sphere.
One of the biggest changes has been location flexibility – an idea that’s rocketed to prominence in the wake of COVID-19, but which has actually been gaining steam since the introduction of videoconferencing and internal instant messaging systems. Especially in the tech industry and other cutting-edge sectors, remote workers and even entire remote companies have become commonplaces.
When we do come into the office, we’re more casual than we were twenty years ago, with strict office dress codes mostly becoming a thing of the past – although they endure in certain client-facing professions that value a respectable image, like finance and law. Still, things that used to be dealbreakers for employers – like tattoos and unconventional haircuts – are widely accepted, and overall, the new generations of bosses and workers alike value individuality and self-expression.
In general, the values of office culture have shifted – beginning with the fact that “office culture” is a thing now, going beyond holiday parties and team-building seminars to more varied offerings that encourage friendship between colleagues. Some companies even plan office-wide trips or take everyone out to eat once a month.
But without question, the biggest change has been in the area of technology and how we use it at work. Not only has it made the workday faster-paced, more convenient, and better organised (well, sometimes), it has changed every department of the average business, from security to sales. It seems unthinkable now – when no successful company is without a complete social media branding strategy – that in 2000 some large organisations had only just set up a website.
Nowadays the technological side of work is in constant flux. Software updates that would have been big events ten or fifteen years ago are now delivered on the fly. The technology we use is both more flexible and more specific, with apps being developed to analyse and deliver any type of information. Yet, we are also beginning to look critically at our always-plugged-in world and ask how we can integrate work into the rest of our lives in a way that’s healthy and fulfilling.
So what’s next? Many experts predict that offices will downsize as more employees choose to work from home, and companies will use their office space differently – becoming more like meeting hubs for employees who may sign in from all over the world.
As work becomes more efficient, it may be possible for companies and their employees to do more with less, offering shorter or more flexible hours for more targeted completion of tasks. Hopefully we will become more long-sighted after weathering the COVID crisis, with greater focus on sustainability and employee retention. If the past two decades have proven anything, it is that change is the only guarantee – and together, we can make sure it’s change for the better.