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From digital transformation and sustainability initiatives to collaborative layouts and flexible work arrangements — millennials have spent the past decade driving change in the design and culture of the workplace. Today as the older members of Gen Z have started entering the workforce, much like the generation that came before them, they're shaking things up in a big way.

With predictions on the future of the office and office design popping up everywhere, it's surprising how few of them ask the obvious question: What do younger employees want from the workplace?

Millennials and Gen Z make up nearly half of the workforce

By 2025, millennials are projected to make up more than 50% of the global workforce. As of 2016, the number of millennial employees had already surpassed both Gen X and the Baby Boomer generation. And over the next five years, Gen Z is set to become the fastest-growing generation in the labor force as more of its members reach the age of employment.

In order to attract and retain the younger generations of employees in the workforce — the innovative employees your company needs — you have to understand what they want in terms of office design and culture. And then you have to create that combination.

Today, over half of working millennials are managing teams and making important business decisions. They are the ones driving purpose-driven cultures and contributing creative ideas that take their companies above their competitors, so you probably want them on your payroll.

"Many managers feel that ignoring the divide between young and the slightly less young isn’t an option." The New York Times

For a long time, millennial office design was the topic of conversation when it came to the workplace and company culture. Often millennials faced criticism from previous generations, who accused them of being lazy and laughed at their pizza parties and other proposed job perks. But as New York Time's future of work reporter Emma Goldberg touched on in a recent article, "Many managers feel that ignoring the divide between young and the slightly less young isn’t an option. It shapes hiring. It shapes marketing. And over the last year, it has shaped the way companies respond to a country in tumult."

When others resisted, millennials rushed forward to ensure the connection between the company's performance, people, systems, and devices in the workplace. They focused on bridging gaps in data, leveraging automation, and the addition of emerging technologies such as conference room software and wayfinding apps.

How digital natives helped reshape the workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic happened so rapidly that digital transformation was less of an opportunity and more of a harrowing need to respond. The unprepared had to rapidly boost their digital infrastructure and make an immediate shift to remote working arrangements.

In the aftermath of COVID-19, those who had high connectivity between company culture, tools, and people already had a significant advantage. Organizations that valued agility and were already positioned to act quickly and intelligently were uniquely prepared for the crisis. And those who didn't found themselves scrambling to respond.

Companies that had already embraced innovation and agility were able to avoid, or at least reduce, the disruption caused by COVID-19. You can thank the millennial workforce and their younger "Gen Z" counterparts for that advantage.

Does Gen Z care about millennial office design?

Your Gen Z employees may resist coming back to the office. At least, if you take the results from a recent survey from the Harris Poll into account. According to their findings, Gen Zers are more likely to report being uncomfortable returning to a fully in-person work arrangement.

But that doesn't mean they don't want to come back at all — just "a little to a lot less often" according to the Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey, which found that 25% of millennials and 22% of Gen Z employees want to be in the office less than they were in pre-pandemic days. 

Before you bring employees back into the workplace, now is the time to consider what these generations expect from your workplace in 2022 — and beyond.

Office design for millennials and Gen Z in 2022

If you want to provide an environment and culture that motivates your potential millennial and Gen Z employees, here’s what you need to think about when updating your office design.

Empower collaboration

As the number of millennials and Gen Z employees has grown, new office design trends should become even more of a priority for companies looking to attract and retain top talent. Closed-up cubes and corner offices prevent collaboration and the flow of information, and millennials like working with, sharing ideas and learning from others.

This generation believes a collaborative office culture is the key to innovation.

Younger employees want nothing to do with the beige-colored walls, uninspired meeting spaces, and fluorescent lighting. Break away from the traditional office layout and invest in a more collaborative floor plan. Get rid of creative barriers.

While you're at it, update your office design with a variety of spaces, add creative artwork, increase the natural light, and upgrade the conference room scheduling software in meeting rooms.

With conference room scheduling software, meeting attendees can quickly see which rooms are available and book them quickly, in cooperation with their regular calendaring system.

Bring in furniture that accommodates a variety of work styles: adjustable-height desks, so employees don't have to sit all day, and maybe a few yoga balls to replace traditional office chairs. Freestanding dividers like bookshelves or even plant "walls" can be beneficial to your introverted employees who might struggle to focus in a completely open work area.

Be sure there are plenty of conference rooms of varying sizes in your more open office design. Although an open layout helps promote collaboration amongst employees, it also means that an employee's individual workspace is no longer a good place to hold private meetings or videoconferences with coworkers or business partners who are remotely located.

For the time being, shared spaces will be reduced to keep the workplace safe and physically distanced. But under normal circumstances, you'll want to make sure you have a break room and/or lounge room. Millennials feel comfortable in communal areas, where they’re more relaxed to build relationships with their coworkers as well as brainstorm new work ideas and collaborate on specific projects.

Embrace technology

Millennials like their own way of doing things. They want freedom of choice and devices that make their work-life easier and better. So besides an open office design layout and adjustable furniture that allows for more flexibility, adopt the latest technology.

Millennials have a mobile and tech-forward mindset, which means they're comfortable with — and have come to expect — convenient tools such as conference room scheduling software for booking meeting rooms. These tools can work on tablets, which 50% of U.S. young adults own, making it easy for employees to search for and book meeting rooms that fit their needs.

Embracing the technology that millennials already own and use is a surefire way to better attract and maintain happy millennial employees. And a more efficient digital workspace benefits workers from any generation.

Value what they value

Another common theme among millennials is a desire to work for an employer who values health and wellness and recognizes their need for a better work-life balance.

Like you, a millennial is an individual who has a life outside of work, and many of their lives include a family. They spend long hours at the office working, but they also value maintaining their own health and wellness. Including a gym or wellness program is not only an increasingly common office trend, it’s also the perfect way to show your potential and current employees you value them — by valuing what they value.

Until a few months ago, some aspects of work have been at odds with the fast-paced change of technology and employee expectations. Flexible work schedules were for a limited few and seen as a perk. Legacy conference room technology was more of a frustration than a benefit.

Armed with user friendly ways to efficiently navigate the office, greet a visiting client, book a desk ahead of time, or use conference room scheduling software to instantly find a meeting room — your millennial employees will be more engaged and productive.

Aligning Gen Z culture with millennial office design

Millennials are notorious for "job-hopping". In fact, they're about three times more likely to change jobs than employees from other generations. Not only does that lead to high recruitment costs, it also results in productivity losses among other intangible costs — which is why retention is vital to your company profitability. Employee engagement can reduce your turnover rate by 25-59%.

Though we have limited data about Gen Z workers — they've only been in the workforce for about 4 years — we do know that they spend, on average, 6 months less in a job than Millennials. And according to a recent Adobe survey, 56% of the Gen Z workforce are planning a job change in the next year.

Here's the takeaway: Millennial and Gen Z employees will continue to guide progress within your organization. They're driven by the desire to make things more efficient and connected. They're also well-known for their part in helping their organizations establish and maintain a competitive edge.

When you prioritize a safer and more connected workplace in your office design, you'll find the innovative millennial and Gen Z workforce you're looking for. Get tips on keeping your employees engaged and avoiding burnout in our recent e-book - New Rules for Creating Workplace Happiness.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Teem

Teem by iOFFICE provides enterprises with space scheduling and management, workplace analytics, building, and campus wayfinding, and visitor management to help cultivate workplaces that fuel productivity, efficiency, and creativity.

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