No office is the new ‘corner office’.

Think of success and office space. The corner office, vista of downtown New York, 40/50/60+ floors up, 500sq ft+, at least one sofa, a huge desk with multiple screens, board table, more cupboard space than a ‘Real Housewife of XXXXXX’ craves in her dressing room and of course the obligatory interior designer and redecoration budget.

Fuelled by 100s of movies. Michael Douglas in Wall Street. Melanie Griffiths at the end of Working Girl. Bruce Willis in Moonlighting…. More recently, Damien Lewis in Billions or Leonardo Di Caprio in Wolf of Wall Street.

It trickled down to the wish list of every ‘professional’ career-hungry job seeker throughout my headhunting career.

No pay rise, but you’ll have your own office. Few things raised the pulse of young professionals 10/20yrs ago as much as the promise of your own office, preferably with a business card with the word ‘Director’ on it (with embossed Silian Grail on a bone card, ideally with a watermark; for those of a certain era).

But this is 2020. Even an 8 mile commute into a provisional city can be an hour [or two, for the c45 weeks per year major road arteries seem to have ‘improvement’ works on them.]

Status symbols are no longer recognisable for those ‘Gordon Gekko’ era people amongst us. Status car? Probably one that doesn’t exist, or at least one that you now plug in.

As for the executive washroom/prime car parking space….. Can you just imagine in the current ‘equal rights’ environment?

It’s easy to sit aghast at ‘Millennials’ and their whimsical, entitled expectations coupled with attitudes so fragile a miss pronunciation can bring global condemnation….but the truth is that old-school recruitment attraction tools really are last millennium.

An offer for a COO earlier this year afforded the privilege of a private office in a small Group Head Office location, so that the appointee could make use of a confidential, quiet space when required, along with full video conference facilities so that she might liaise with an international workforce (no interior designer/redecoration budget though).

The appointee wasn’t happy. She would rather forego the office and have the flexibility to work remotely; home-office/roam-office, rather than be stuck in a corner office.

The CEO and HRD were initially bamboozled, but very quickly realised that far from being alone, their incoming COO was far from it.

As Millennials progress through the executive ranks, and ‘Gen-Zee-ers’ follow them even quicker, the traditional efforts by large corporates to attract key talent will no longer appeal. The corporate ladder is no longer a barometer of success.

Wind back 24 years. I joined an energetic young recruitment business from a large global recruiter. £4k pay rise….and the chance to swap my Golf GTi for a 6-cylinder BMW. It was the prime basis of offer discussion (negotiated up from a lowly 4-cyl variant).

The business was famed for its car policy, recognising that for young professionals 1 or 2 years out of University, a semi-exotic car was the greatest magnet. The car list was usually read ahead of any offer letter, employment contract and even commission structure. The business even had a salary sacrifice scheme to add options your selected car (as long as it didn’t become a threat to a management level above’s range of available cars).

We look back from the very different world of 2020 with incredulity at such a policy, but in the mid-90s, it worked. Indeed, refusing a colleague the 2.8 BMW Z3 and ‘palming her off with a mere 328i Cabriolet) saw her so disgruntled as to join a competitor.

Today, few people get a car with their job offer. Even a car allowance is becoming less common – the benefit-percentage-calculation of salary being preferable in the savvy-‘20s.

What are they replaced with? A fully expensed ride-share/ride-hailing service for some. Carbon-offset travel policies. Even a corporate account with Airbnb or similar, with a provision for taking family along with you.

Health, wellness and fitness figure heavily, promoting physical and mental health within the business, but more-so recognising its collective importance in people’s lives, and families.

Generation Z will no doubt continue the trend as they enter the workplace and be the target of hiring managers. Digital emersion will no doubt see even greater call (and provision) for remote working, and the attraction structures that go with it, especially with a 2019 Adobe survey highlighting that UK Generation Z-ers are spending 25% more time consuming digital content than millennials, and almost 50% more than the UK as a whole. The generation are no longer digital adopters, but only know life with full digital emersion.

To define, and therefore target success for recruiters, hiring managers and headhunters becomes ever more complex (especially those well ensconced within Generation X!).

Work Life Blend not Work Life Balance.

There is an increasing move towards the newer generations focusing on what they are working for, rather than who. An interest in social and environment responsibility is high on the agenda, as is social mobility and mindful/mental health; influence rather than raw power, sitting alongside the desire for money.

The newer workforce is seeking to blend all aspects of their life; no longer is a ‘clock-in/clock-out’ employment structure desirable, or even acceptable.

Check emails at the gym? Yes.
Meditate whilst ‘at work’? Yes.
Delay your start time to do the school run? Yes.
Work when you awaken at 2am? Yes.
Make the most of a (rare) sunny afternoon to walk/run/cycle? Yes.

Allow your workforce to work where they feel most productive, and how they feel most fulfilled and happy and your corporate collateral will grow exponentially.

Accept the human desire for flexibility and freedom and you will unlock true performance, rather than keep it locked up in a corner office.




2 Comments on “No office is the new ‘corner office’.”

  1. Pingback: The one with Recruitment and a Coronavirus | Gary Chaplin

  2. Pingback: Coronavirus Recruitment – Faster than HS2 | Gary Chaplin


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