How the Workplace has Changed in the Last 20 Years


Working has never been quite so competitive, flexible, and accommodating as it is now. Thanks to technology, working is faster, more efficient (usually), and has changed the dynamic of most workplaces.


Working Remotely

Almost unheard of just a few decades ago, about 1/3 of workers have worked remotely, and the changes in productivity in morality are incredibly positive. Not only does efficiency increase while turnover decreases, but fixed costs for companies go down as well. Not having to provide office space (at least not as much), utilities, etc. adds up in savings for companies that allow employees to work remotely.


You can read more about the benefits of working remotely here.


Job Changes

In the search for fulfillment and higher compensation, employees are only staying with a company for about 5 years before making a change. Gone are the days of a pension and the loyal worker that sticks around for 30+ years to receive it.


Changing jobs has many reasons: layoffs, reorganization of a company, stress, lack of compensation for work, career advancement, etc. As technology continues to increase efficiency and turn more work to automation, it’s likely that job changes will become more commonplace.


What You Say Matters

As a new generation has emerged in the workforce, so has the tolerance for different beliefs and behaviors.. Many laws now protect employees from being discriminated against for sexual orientation, marital status, race, etc. Harassment charges are easy to come by if you aren’t careful of what you say or do.


Tolerance of Looks

In a lot more places, tattoos, piercings, fun-colored hair, extreme hairstyles, etc. are more tolerated than they were 20 years ago. Again, the emerging generation demands tolerance for expressing yourself through your looks without it affecting your employment prospects. This certainly isn’t true across all industries and companies, but compared to 20 years ago, a lot of progress has been made.



While email is still primarily used for business communication, even emails are shorter now than they used to be. However, more commonplace communication methods nowadays are texting, video chat (Skype), instant messaging (Slack), and mobile phone calls. People are saying less (Twitter only allows 140 characters per tweet), but communicating more frequently. Especially online.


Customers are reaching out to companies on social media to voice feedback, leave complaints, and ask for help. Twenty years ago, for most companies, customers would have to call in with a question or complaint.



Because everybody (well almost everybody) has a cell phone attached to them, many people have become available to work 24/7. You can be reached by text, phone call, or email and there’s almost no excuse for you to not answer. Not great for work/life balance, but workers become aware of problems more quickly.


Less Paper

Welcome to the digital age. Everything is online, saved on the cloud, or in another digital format that makes it easily accessible to employees and reduces paper use.


The term “paper-pusher” has all but gone away in most industries as technology advances enough to become primary for many companies. It’s great for the environment, and makes work more accessible to employees.



With salaries, benefits, and even interview questions available online for many companies, comes transparency that almost forces companies to be as competitive as possible to gain the best workers. This transparency comes in handy for employees looking for a raise or an advancement in their career.



More and more, especially with tech companies it seems, the culture is more laid-back and fun than what you would have seen 20 years ago. Mini-bars on every floor at Facebook headquarters, fully-stocked kitchens, company activities, and employee getaways are some of the additional benefits employers offer to remain competitive.


As the culture becomes more laid-back, so does the requirement to be in the office at specific hours (more flexibility than just 8-5). More employers allow their employees to dress casually, display piercings and tattoos, and take breaks whenever they feel is necessary.


There have been a lot of changes in the workplace over the last couple of decades. Some of these changes may seem unnecessary and a hindrance, but productivity and efficiency are high! In part due to ever-advancing technology, but also these changes in the workplace have proven to improve employee morale and output.

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