You want the best from your employees, but the space that makes a Generation X employee productive could be quite different to what makes a Millennial productive. So how can companies design an effective workplace that gets the best from every generation?
Baby Boomers enjoy signs of success like private offices. Gen Xers are more concerned with work-life balance than status and like individual spaces where they can be as productive as possible. Millennials spend more time in common spaces, which need to invite effective interaction. But different needs don’t have to mean different areas for each generation. Rather the solution lies in finding common ground by looking at the way we work and designing settings around this.
According to research by global design and architecture firm Gensler, there are four primary modes of working: collaboration, focus, learning and socialisation. The workspace of the future is designed around these modes. It’s less about individual workstations and more about work settings, with employees being able to move from setting to setting depending on the type of work they’re doing at the time.
A collaborative work environment leads to more productivity, creativity and innovation. It also inspires a sense of community in the business and allows workers to build meaningful relationships, adding to their quality of life. Businesses that create a collaborative structure where people can engage in informal, formal and virtual collaboration give themselves a powerful competitive advantage.
Collaborative spaces are not the traditional boardroom settings we know, but rather more flexible and adaptable spaces. Here teams can rearrange furniture and break up into smaller groups. They also have at hand all the tools that assist collaboration: plenty of whiteboards or blackboards for writing on, access to plug points, and reliable wireless access to the company network.
There are many more distractions in the workplace today: workers have less space, less privacy and longer days. Always-on technology also adds to our list of distractions. Employees crave a space where they can engage in extended periods of uninterrupted focus. Cubicles do offer advantages but don’t screen out distractions completely. A solution is to set up a quiet space (a quiet zone, privacy pod or focus room) in your office where employees can go to avoid all distractions and disruptions. Work pods are also a great alternative for creating meaningful spaces to focus.
This quiet space or focus room can serve multiple purposes: it can be used for focus work, one-to-one meetings, or as a place to take a private or important client phone call.
In today’s world, there are constant changes in the economy and technology. To keep up, businesses are continually exploring and grappling with new trends, technologies, situations and solutions. Training is a constant in the working environment and businesses need areas for focused learning that are at the same time structured and flexible.
Trainees need a clear line of sight to the instructor and access to technology such as projectors and individual computers. The spaces also need to be flexible, for example, tables and chairs that can be rearranged so classes can break up into smaller groups. By combining structure and flexibility into the space, you meet the needs of all generational groups.
Informal interactions, connections and communication add value to organisations – they energise staff and boost the creative energy of the group. The Gensler research points to future office structures where socialising will be encouraged and abundant. Companies like Google already place a lot of emphasis on socialisation, creating this through amenities such as their cafeterias, on-site pet centres and massage therapy rooms. The Google Campus in London also makes extensive use of socialising spaces and informal areas.
Socialisation spaces should be very much part of the office space rather than temporary arrangements (a foldaway table that’s hauled out once a month). It doesn’t have to be a separate breakaway room, but can simply be a corner with a comfortable table and chairs – using colours and graphics that make the area feel part of the office.
Read more: Socialising Spaces
The Baby Boomer Generation, born between 1946 and 1964, tend to be team-oriented and are very focused on work and their careers. They enjoy signs of professional success such as private offices. They also place an emphasis on common areas and meeting spaces like the younger generations do. Many are in managerial positions and want to cultivate collaboration and a sense of belonging, affirming their role in the workplace.
Milestone: In 2014 the last Baby Boomer turns 50.
Generation X, born between 1965 and 1976, put more emphasis on work-life balance. They’re comfortable with technology and lean toward multi-tasking. They are at the mid-point in their careers and know their jobs well. They are independent-minded and want individual workspaces that allow them to be super productive. Common areas and meeting rooms should convey a good impression and function well.
Milestone: In 2014, Generation X is at the height of its consumer and social leadership.
The Millennial Generation, born between 1977 and 1996, are familiar with technology and expect the latest gear. They integrate technology seamlessly into their work and multitasking is all they’ve ever known. They want to work for companies that demonstrate social values and a concern for the environment. They are still finding their way and spend more time in waiting areas and common spaces. Training is also a feature of their working lives and the functionality of these rooms is important.
Milestone: In 2014, the last Millennial turns 18 and graduates from high school.
Generation Z (the post-Millennials) born from 1997, are the first generation of the 21st century and in just a few years will be moving into the workforce. This generation have the most diverse social circle and will be even more qualified than Gen Y who have been called the most educated generation in history.
Milestone: In 2014, the youth population will be comprised of a brand new generation.