Reshaping the Workplaces-India & China

Reshaping the Workplaces-India & China
Oct 2016 , by , in Press Room

Reshaping the Workplaces – India & China

New-Gen workers in India and China because of unique histories, traditions and memories, remain distinctly themselves with their own sets of aspirations, expectations and needs.And, on the basis of sheer numbers alone, these vast populations are already exerting tremendous influence on work and the workplace, just as Baby Boomers did when they entered workplaces in North America.

Workplaces that support distinct worker needs ensure better productivity and increase the ability to attract and retain the best people anywhere in the world. The sheer power of demographics makes this an especially important consideration for India and China, which now represent in combination one-third of the total global population. Urbanization in both countries is happening at an unprecedented rate. India and China alone will account for more than 62 percent of Asian urban population growth and 40 percent of global urban population growth from 2005 to 2025.

whitepaper-gen-y-china-india1Chinageert Hofstede’s Model of Cultural Differences

India Generation Y

A diverse country of 28 states, 17 major languages, 29 widely celebrated festivals and 19 main regional cuisines, India has a 5,000-year history of absorbing customs, tradition, and heritages.The economic liberalization and global technologies have produced a generation that mixes Indian values with Western outlook. It’s huge English-speaking and highly educated professional base is luring multinational corporations that want to explore India’s service capabilities and opportunities for research, engineering, and innovation.

In few other places are the cultural and generational shifts taking place in India more apparent than in the workplace. It’s here that the younger generation’s ambitions and attitudes take center stage as they strive to influence their country’s economy and their own destinies. Through education and enterprise, they hope to make an impact. Jobs in high tech and the media are considered prized, with computer science the most sought-after field.

Entrepreneurs are getting younger, and many young Indians work two jobs. For Indian Gen Yers, the work they do is as important as the reputation of the company and the salary paid. They strive for differentiation through education, reputation, brands and technology, and especially money.

The workplace is a leveler of varied backgrounds: economic, educational, social, and religious. Perhaps ironically, their personal ambitions don’t compromise teamwork in the workplace. They look to their employers and co-workers to help them learn and even call centers are highly team-centric.Despite their liberalized ambitions, young Indians remain traditional in many ways. In some ways, their fascination with movies (both Bollywood and Hollywood) can be considered a way of seeing their own lives come to reality.

Seven key shifts happening in the Indian workplace

  • From local to global- Indian companies are focused on serving a global community. Employees are aware of what’s happening around the world, and they understand how their company’s efforts fit into the global economy.
  • From service capabilities to core competencies- Multinationals are going to India to take advantage of the high level of technical expertise there in engineering, research, and innovation.
  • From workplace as an expense to workplace as an investment – Increasingly in workspaces are being designed to support not only the work, but also the workers by giving them the appropriate tools, equipment, and work settings to work effectively.
  • From inherited identity to created identity – Young Indians are captivated by the potential to create their own identity which is replacing traditional family, ethnic or culture declarations of identity. The type of work a person does and the reputation of the company that he or she works for are important parts of the equation.
  • From job security to career growth – Growth is more important than job security, and people will readily leave a job to advance.
  • From WORK/life to Work/Life – Employers now seek to reduce stress and build loyalty among employees. For example, many private employers now provide transportation to and from work, allow employees to work from home..
  • From connections to collaboration – More business relationships are formed based on capabilities and expertise, and teams are formed based on individual skills. The team collaborates with management to create the goal of a project, and brainstorming is becoming a norm.

Workplace Designs for India


Whether designing workspaces for multinationals in India or locally owned companies, effective spaces support the shifts that Generation Y is reflecting and affecting.

  • Design to support individuals – All workers want control over how they lay out and work through their tasks, along with the ability to switch work modes easily. Superior connections and support for technology, array and storage capabilities and an easy-to-adjust, high-comfort chair can transform even a small footprint into an appealing, effective space for individual work.
  • Design for growth- Collaboration and mentoring happen best when space supports interaction. Providing “pull up a chair” space in individual workstations or nearby enclaves supports the convening of expertise.
  • Design for work-life balance – Spaces for relaxation, recharging and socialization are important as a way for India’s new-generation employers to acknowledge the importance of family and social obligations in employees’ lives.
  • Design for collaboration – Shared workstations and group work settings encourage peer-to-peer interactions and team work. Providing enough work surfaces to spread out work plus ample whiteboards and tackable vertical surfaces help make concepts visible and support laddered thinking.Onsite cafes, ping-pong tables, and other areas for networking and socialization are increasingly important workplace amenities. .
  • Design for technology- The more tech-rich the space, the better. As India continues to invest in infrastructure, providing access to information and enhancing workplace opportunities to connect with people anywhere in the world is critical.
  • Design for effectiveness – Brand is an important reflection of differentiation, so young workers are rapidly gravitating to employers who infuse their identity throughout the culture and the workplace.

Key shifts are occurring as the youngest generation of knowledge workers is entering Indian and Chinese workplaces in droves. The best workplaces in India and China support the emerging work styles of their youngest workers. More than ever, the workplaces that are thoughtfully designed to help people do their best works can translate into successful businesses.

China’s Post-80s Generation

Chinese culture is predominantly that of the majority Han culture, mixed with various ethnic minorities from throughout the country. It is founded on Confucian and Taoist principles which emphasize respect for authority and social harmony above all. With the opening up the country to foreign trade, China has become the second largest and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Urbanization is on the rise as rural workers migrate to non-agricultural industries. With a greater G3 network penetration than many Western countries; even China’s rural areas have access to the Internet via their mobile phones.

The Post-80s generation has grown up in a time of relative political peace and economic prosperity. They are experiencing the benefits of economic reform, open markets, but in big cities there’s a growing number who are unemployed or under-employed.At the same time, the percentage of people over 65 is growing, that could mean drained savings for the elderly as well as young workers who will need to support their parents. So, while they’re beneficiaries of a more open, prosperous economy, the Post-80s generation also feels intense pressure to succeed, with all their family’s hopes singularly resting on them.

Six key shifts happening in China’s workplace

  • From harmony to identity – Young people are starting to create their own identities based purely on their own interests. This can sometimes create conflict with traditional values, though Post-80s generation participants still retain strong values of responsibility to family.
  • From teamwork to collaboration – In China, society is moving in this direction as individuals begin to express their own identities, but it isn’t yet firmly established. Collaboration will become easier as people become more comfortable expressing differing opinions and working constructively through conflict, but today it can still be a struggle.
  • Job security to growth – To the youngest generation, continuous learning is more important than job security. This new generation is also becoming more entrepreneurial due to increased competition for limited jobs and the global economic crisis.
  • From supporting the work to supporting the worker -. The new generation is looking for a variety of spaces in the workplace — for different kinds of work as well as informal breaks. Meals are a social occasion in Chinese culture, making on-site cafeterias and pantries valued.
  • From worker to explorer – Young Chinese want to develop a career path of their own and aren’t afraid to change jobs to do it. Instead of just performing “drone” tasks as assigned, they want to help their companies perform better by going beyond what’s expected.
  • From work + life to working + living – Working now implies an active role in the company, contributing to new ideas, new processes, and new ways of working. “Living” also typically has a broader scope, reaching beyond family to include friends, traveling, and hobbies with an emphasis on exploration and learning.

Workplace Design for China

With dramatic differences between older and younger generations, workplaces in China are being transformed to be effective and desirable places that attract the younger generation.

  • Design for collaboration – A variety of settings is ideal, like lounges, pantries, and cafes where social interaction can occur alongside work. Workplace furniture and tools that support an easy exchange of digital information may provide an easier transition to collaboration.
  • Design for growth – Spaces that support easy mentoring like an enclave nearby, seating around a corner, can show that an organization is accessible.
  • Design for identity – Allowing for personalization with accessories, technology, and trendy work tools makes the workplace less routine and more fun.
  • Design for the worker – Adequate space for each person is important, as is the right balance of privacy..
  • Design for the explorer –Faster and easier access to information and the work station with size, storage and technology implications.
  • Design for living and working – A variety of areas for both work and relaxation make the workplace a fun and friendly place to be.

The Research Study

The India and China research projects were designed to gain first-hand insights into the characteristics of workers aged 2030 in India and China. (There is no Gen Y in China; the equivalent population is called Post-80s and it spans just one decade.). Though separate studies, both research projects were organized using common filters — culture, politics, economics, and technology — to provide opportunities for deeper insights through comparison and contrast.

The study in China included observations, workshops and personal interviews with 162 workers at eight multinationals and one Chinese-owned company in four cities. The study in India included 416 workers at 16 companies in six cities, 11 of which were multinationals and five Indian-owned. Both studies involved a cross-section of industries, from consulting to manufacturing. Workers of different ages were included, but the primary focus was on the youngest generation that entered the workforce within the past 8-10 years.

Excerpts from research report by Steelcase Inc., the global leader in office furniture and workspace design.


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