• Millennial Attitudes. Anyone from an older generation may complain about millennial entitlement and refusal to adhere to traditional norms. You can argue whether this is a good or a bad thing, or whether it’s an accurate reflection of the generation, but as a general rule, millennials resist corporate traditions. They’re shaping a freer, looser style of work—whether you like it or not.
  • Insights on Productivity and Psychology. New insights on productivity and psychology, such as the fact that meetings kill productivity (and possibly morale), and working from home can be a boon to productivity, are similarly shaping radical office culture changes.

Tenets of Office Culture (and Timelines)

Not everybody dislikes all aspects of modern office culture. Some of them are designed to improve productivity, some of them are vestiges of older traditions of etiquette, and some of them evolved naturally or by happenstance.

In any case, these are the fundamentals of office culture that we’ll be waving goodbye to, some sooner and some later:

  • The 9-to-5 Workday. The 9-to-5 workday is already starting to die. People working from home and non-time-specific modes of communication like email remove the necessity of everyone being in the same place at the same time. Though this may persist in some informal way for many years, it should die as a rigid construct in the next few.
  • The Hierarchy. The corporate hierarchy has evolved somewhat in recent years, especially in certain niches like startups. The pecking order of leaders, supervisors, managers, and bosses keep employees in line, even if workers sometimes question leadership decisions. It’s unlikely that this will disappear (after all, people love their job titles), but I anticipate more democratic work discussions in the next few years, when more millennials step into leadership positions.
  • The Dress Code. The suit-and-ties of past offices have been dying a slow death, as modern trends have allowed for more lax dress standards. In the next decade, mandatory dress codes will fall out of style, but good hygiene and professionalism will always be important.
  • The Water Cooler. A less formal feature of office culture, water cooler discussions are on their way out. With texting, IMs, and social media, who needs a water cooler to have a friendly conversation?
  • Cubicles. Cubicles have risen and fallen in popularity, as studies have provided mixed results about their effects on productivity. It’s hard to say exactly how these will develop in the future, but it’s likely that they’ll disappear along similar lines as full physical offices.
  • Meetings. Meetings can’t ever die, so long as collaboration remains important, but they will transform, and radically, in the next few years. We have too many cool new technologies and too much emphasis on personal productivity to allow the hours-long board-room discussions of yesteryear to keep interfering with our productivity.

A Question of Industry                 

Some industries will naturally lend themselves to faster rates of adoption than others. For example, tech startups are already ditching most of these old-school tenets of office culture. Why? Because they can set their own rules, they thrive on an image of being cutting-edge, and they’re usually started by younger demographics. Older businesses, like major consulting firms that have been around for decades, are unlikely to change nearly as quickly (if ever).

Can Office Culture Ever Die Universally?

Even when these modern office culture staples begin to die out, they won’t die out in the same way for every business. Some industries or older organizations may hold onto them forever, preserving them in traditional reverence. Certainly, there will be new entrepreneurs who appreciate or even idolize these traditional aspects, and may work to prevent them from dying entirely. As such, it seems impossible that new traditions will completely replace the old, just as motor vehicles never completely replaced horseback riding—then again, when was the last time you saw a horse on the road?