Millennials are changing office culture in visible ways — you can see it in the design sensibilities of modern workplaces and the thoughtfulness of office layouts. But they are also making figurative improvements which can be a little more difficult to see at first glance. Read on to learn how this younger generation stands to change the workplace, and even the economy, as we know it.

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1. Flatter company hierarchy and open offices

In both a literal and a figurative sense, millennials want to flatten the average company model. The quintessential office — cubicles at the bottom and high-powered offices at the top — presents physical and psychological barriers to workplace harmony and productivity. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Millennials seem to understand this. Employees who had direct interaction with their managers within the last six months report being up to three times more engaged than workers who had no interaction with company leaders. This engagement gap is something millennial employees are trying to change for good. From open offices to more frequent opportunities for feedback and exchanging ideas, millennials crave flatness in company structure and communication channels.

Open-door policies don’t mean anything, after all, if your CEO’s office is inaccessible. Millennials also prefer to work in an environment with great natural lighting — probably because this, too, contributes to a sense of openness and harmony.

Three people are sitting at a table, hunkered over their laptops and laughing.

2. The vanishing office

The office is vanishing — not completely or overnight, but certainly with time. It’s all about allowing employees to do their work in familiar, comfortable or novel environments.

You have probably heard of communal work spaces, which offer an interesting middle-ground between a home office and a company campus. Home offices are booming, too, thanks to millennials. In one survey, 85 percent of millennial respondents indicated they would prefer telecommuting from home or elsewhere 100 percent of the time, versus commuting to a central location.

There are plenty of ways for employers to support this new way of working — even in the smaller details like outfitting home or satellite offices. Many companies provide their employees with allowances to buy furnishings, decorations or electronics for their spaces at work, and the same concept can apply for telecommuters. A stipend for remote workers can help them create a unique work environment at home, which contributes to their productivity and makes them feel more connected to the company’s home base.

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3. The rise of the side-hustle

Depending on whom you ask, this is either a gift of market-driven society or a symptom of it. Either way — and whether out of necessity or the sheer pleasure of developing new skills — millennials are encouraging a new aspect of the economy.

The side-hustle isn’t the second job that parents and grandparents knew. It might not be incredibly lucrative, but the side-hustle does provide an opportunity to develop skills, pursue interests and gain a new stream of income in addition to a full time job. According to many economists, a side-hustle economy might soon become reality.

A robotic arm.

4. Building a brighter future with technology

Many jobs that require repetitive motion or manual labor may soon be performed by machines. What comes after that? According to some experts, one solution includes taxes on the robots, which would fund a citizen stipend known as “universal basic income.” Even now, polls are finding a majority of millennials to be in favor of UBI, since it could help many underemployed college graduates find some financial security as they monetize their skills.

We’re getting ahead of the point, but the fact remains: millennials have been extremely quick to read the writing on the wall when it comes to technology and the future of the world economy. They’re envisioning a future where everyone is free to pursue talents and passions, while also learning to integrate these passions with our work responsibilities.

A large office filled with greenery, including a live plant wall.

5. Companies that benefit the world

Millennials want to spend their time working for organizations that contribute to the common good in some way. They see the challenges facing the world, and recognize the importance of the triple bottom line: social, environmental and financial sustainability. They’ve also given more of their earnings to charity than their parents’ generation.

It doesn’t stop there. When it comes to the physical environment of the workplace, green design is very much in demand. The younger generation wants to work in spaces with eco-friendly lighting, solar power and even down-to-earth structural designs using recycled materials.

The point of all this is that young people seem to see a better way of doing things when it comes to working. Step one is to make work more comfortable and relevant for the people doing it. Step two is to make it relevant to the rest of the world.

Via NBC News, OnRec, Flex Jobs, Market Watch, SF Gate, The Street and Generosity

Images via Brooke Cagle, Marc Mueller, Bruce Mars, Johnson Wang, Scott Webb, and Deposit Photos