The landscape of workplace culture has been changing for quite some time. As society moves forward and continues to modernize in terms of technology, human development, artificial intelligence and the like, many companies are shifting from the traditionally accepted workplace “rules”.

Nationwide, leading employers like Google, Nielsen, and Netflix are exploring a new frontier of employment. Forbes reports that major companies are innovating their approach to employment culture to cater to employees and their needs. It is no secret that “toxic” corporate standards have been credited with rapid turnover rates across the corporate world. The psychological pressure of deadlines, meetings, and the value of the dollar over the employee, causes many people to burn out in a short amount of time. Recently, the World Health Organization recognized “burn out” in “11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11)” as an "occupational phenomenon". Though it has not been named a medical condition, that alone is reason enough for some employers take action and establish new ways to define their workplace philosophy.

How does Champaign-Urbana compare? Our community is known for being a hub for small businesses, startup companies, and local entrepreneurship. Smaller businesses are often more inclined to value individual employees and offer an alternative to the corporate America narrative. For many people, this is a compelling argument to branch out and abandon their jobs, in search of something more rewarding.

A few noteworthy businesses in our area are taking notice of the shifting culture. Lodgic Everyday Community is re-inventing the wheel of employment. According to Stefanie McLeese, Public Relations Director, Lodgic is the nation’s first-ever blend of coworking, drop-in childcare, restaurants, and event space. The space is designed to offer entrepreneurs, freelancers, students, etc., a creative place to work, tailored with unique amenities for members to use. Open spaces, new faces, creative ideas, and most importantly, a change of pace, can offer employees a new perspective to bring back to their traditional office settings.

What is special about the coworking environment is that it allows people the flexibility to go at their own pace. The memberships at Lodgic vary, depending on the business, or the needs of the customer. McLeese shares:

“We also have corporate employers — even colleges on campus — who want to have conversations about tailoring corporate memberships that come with passes their employees can rotate and share to get them out of the traditional office setting and enjoy a more vibrant, energizing space with fresh faces, and creativity teeming from every corner. We gave one UIUC college a two-week pass for their employees to use and test the space. Those employees went back and said, yes please! We are now working with them on a special package to accommodate their faculty and staff through a corporate rate, which they then offer to their employees as a perk”.

Stepping away from a traditional workplace culture models can offer more value to employees. When their needs are met, employees tend to feel more inspired and determined to accomplish goals, meet deadlines, and approach work in a new and unique way.

Photo by Addison McClure

From unique spaces, to unique personalities, Pixo is another forward-thinking local business focused on shedding the 9 to 5 tradition. For those not familiar, Pixo is a “digital engineering firm that designs and builds custom software which connects an organizations goals to systematic research on users and creates smart, scalable technologies that bring the two together," according to its president, Jason Berg.

Berg shares that his firm is also determined to make a positive impact on their employees:

“So many people have worked in environments where they’ve been conditioned to leave their personality at the front door. At Pixo, we have a range of traditions and activities that help people let down their guard, express themselves, and that challenge us all to grow. Sometimes it’s purely fun stuff, like weekly happy hours. Just last week we had our second annual Hawaiian Shirt Day, an idea one of our designers wanted to implement. We even had ukulele music by one of our developers. Other activities are focused more on creativity and connection, like the prompts we all respond to at our Monday morning standup meetings, or the 'Bad Writing Club' started by another employee. Pixo family activities, like all meeting up at Rigg’s on a Saturday, give us all glimpses of each other’s lives outside of work. Most often though, it’s the daily opportunities for autonomy, input, and control over what we do and how we do it that adds up to a culture of authenticity.”

Giving employees flexibility, autonomy and the ability to be creative and innovative helps people feel valued. In return, staff usually feel more empowered about their work. The evidence is pretty clear that the paradigm of workplace culture is starting to look more diverse and eccentric, and the new generation of working adults are loving it.

Even though only two local businesses are outlined in the article, the Champaign-Urbana community is booming with innovation on the employment front (we covered another example, Surface 51, last year). Our cities are full of creative entrepreneurs looking to expand our understanding of workplace culture, which makes this area a prime spot for successful opportunities.

Photos by Patrick Singer except where noted