Smart business decisions are seldom based on generalizations and stereotypes, however in the case of workplace design and millennials, some consideration should be given to the differences in work-style needs associated with Millennials and understand how those needs may differ from those of Baby Boomers.
In 2010 Baby Boomers made up more than half of the U.S. workforce. By 2020 that percentage will have dropped significantly, with Millennials firmly outnumbering Boomers. By 2025 an estimated three out of four workers will be of the Millennial generation.
Changes seen in today’s workplace are attributed to both the growing presence of Millennials and mobile technology. Trending toward a more open environment, developers must include a good mix of both open and quiet spaces or zones. The open work space is designed to promote a sense of community where teams can work and be inspired to innovate, while the more quiet spaces allow fewer distractions by minimizing interruptions.
It is believed that Millennials prefer an open environment that fosters both competition and collaboration which translates into a workspace minus the high walls of previous work environments, allowing for greater visibility, transparency, and interaction. Office spaces now include not only traditional desks, but also standing desks, walking workstations, and cafes with emphasis on Wi-Fi, charging stations, and mobility. These changes in the work environment can lead to higher worker productivity and engagement.
Though different from Boomers in many ways, a recent study has suggested that there may not be such a wide gap in what Millennials want in a workplace and what Boomers and Generation Xers require. It appears that the need for variety, choice, access and transparency are not just isolated to Millennials but shared by their more seasoned colleagues. In this study, what topped the list for Millennials when asked what they would like to see in their future office environment was workspace that allowed for thinking and concentration. That was followed by learning and training spaces, and third was socialization areas.
Where there may be more significant differences are in Millennials focus on Sustainability and Health and Wellness. Millennials are tuned in to the needs of environment conservation and prefer working in “green” spaces with a focus on energy efficiency. They do not want a long commute and prefer a work-life balance that allows for living, working, and relaxing in the same general vicinity. They want to work in environments that offer such amenities as outdoor spaces, fitness facilities, and health food courts.
The new open-office environment designed to appeal to Millennials is also appealing to many companies because of the cost savings involved in eliminating the need for cubicles left empty by telecommuters. The concept also has its detractors with half of workers in this type of environment expressing dissatisfaction. Research indicates that the approach may need some tweaking as more and more it’s been found that this environment is leading to higher stress, uncontrolled disruptions, less concentration, and motivation.
As is the case with most things, balance is the key. For workspace designers, this study suggests that the focus should be on designing well-balanced offices that accommodate a variety of workers, styles, and functions.