While an increasing number of millennials are working from home, and many ‘Gen Y-ers’ are making their first forays into the world of freelancing, offices are still an integral part of the modern workplace.
Despite the regular chatter about how robots are going to take over the world, and how by the end of the century the modern workplace will be unrecognisable, the simple fact is that the majority of businesses still have offices, and people still have to work in them.
As the digital generation become the dominant demographic of the workforce, understanding their expectations of the working environment is pretty crucial. It can make the difference between attracting and retaining top talent, and being met with a crestfallen face as a job candidate steps into your office.
A few things are particularly important to millennials, and can be used as a guideline to very millennial office design trends:
Mix things up – offer variety of work stations
One of the key differences between millennial employees and their senior counterparts is the importance they place on variety.
Without making any sweeping generalisations, the workspaces of yore could be fairly stagnant spaces. Cubicles, rows of identical stations, and uninspiring ‘cut and paste’ offices used to be a common sight (and remain an unfortunate presence in many industries), but times have changed.
We know a lot more about what makes employees tick when it comes to productivity, and an office devoid of any variety can be at best stifling and uninspiring, and at worst utterly depressing. There are a few ways to ‘mix things up’ in an office space, and doing so can take your workspace from drab to desirable.
Consider offering a variety of workstations for employees to choose from. Having a few options aside from the usual desk – such as standing workstations, comfy seats, and shared workstations – and allowing your staff to freely use these as suits their needs can make a huge difference.
One study found that employees with access to standing workstations were up to 45% more productive. The case is clear from a business perspective – but there’s more to it than that.
Millennials take great pride in their sense of self, and their own personal development. They want (and hopefully deserve) to feel respected, and giving them a choice as to how they go about their daily work in the office shows that you understand this.
Design around wellbeing
Over the past few decades, we’ve made huge leaps in our understanding about our health, and what contributes to our wellbeing.
We’ve gone from a world in which smoking took place on aeroplanes and was advertised on the spoilers of Formula 1 cars, to a society where wellbeing is very much at the forefront of our priorities.
Millennials not only know more about what impacts our wellbeing, they care more about it too. They’re some of the most common users of gyms; they buy and consume more healthy food; and consult nutritionists more than their senior counterparts.
For businesses, the office space is a fantastic opportunity to tap into this mentality, and provide an attractive working environment for health-aware millennials.
One of the simplest decisions – but possibly the most effective – is to ensure your working environment includes a good amount of daylight.
Natural light has all kinds of benefits, not least that it helps us focus, increases our productivity, and can also save money on energy bills associated with heating and lighting.
First and foremost, however, is the fact that a bright and sunlit office space is simply more appealing. If you’re choosing an office space, always opt for one with plenty of windows, and bear in mind the positioning of workstations to ensure that no one is (literally) kept in the dark.
You could also consider things like offering free fruit to staff, and ensuring there is somewhere to store bikes should they want to cycle to work. And if you’re choosing a location for your office, then proximity to a gym, leisure centre, or exercise facility is probably prudent.
If this is a strategy you’re willing to adopt, you could even take things further; many businesses now implement corporate wellbeing programs, and these kinds of perks are becoming standard offerings from larger organisations – and are particularly appealing to millennial employees.
Opt for open plan – only a bit
The tropes of the modern ‘hip’ office have become long-running gags; many of us are familiar with such clichés as indoor slides, armies of beanbags, and faux-grass carpets (which, let’s be honest, aren’t fooling anyone.)
One concept often associated with this self-aggrandising ‘we like to do things differently here’ mentality is the open plan office environment.
In principle, open plan spaces are a logical evolution. Millennials have been born into an age of interconnectivity. They’ve grown up in a world where interaction with others is never far away – and through the digital sphere, we’re now quite literally permanently in touch with one another.
The concept of being shepherded into small boxes that divide us up for hours on end is completely at odds with the world we live in. But while Millennials live collaboratively, this doesn’t mean you should take things too far.
Including an open plan area in your office design is a simple and effective step. It creates a feeling of transparency and horizontality, it helps a workforce feel like a team, and it enables colleagues to foster positive working relationships with one another. But if it’s all employees have access to, it can actually be pretty off-putting.
Sometimes, you just want to get your head down and focus on your own work for a few hours; or a colleague might be getting on your nerves, and you need a bit of a break from them. Choosing an entirely open plan office can, ironically, make your millennial employees feel ‘trapped’, and rob them of a sense of autonomy.
Including an open plan area is a great choice, but make sure you also include some private workspaces employees can use if they want to. Combining these principles with the aforementioned variety of workstations can result in an adaptable office that’s tailored to all personalities, preferences and situations – something Generation Y truly values.
Add a splash of colour
It might seem vapid, but looks matter.
The dreary, uninventive offices of the past are actively unappealing to a generation who appreciate design, innovation, and uniqueness – millennials don’t want to feel like a cog in a branch of a soulless machine, they want to feel like a part of a unique organisation with its own identity and character. The design of your office can make all the difference in this respect.
There’s no need to take out a subscription to an interiors magazine and devote yourself to design, rendering yourself a Derek Zoolander-esque wannabe in the process, but taking a bit of pride in how your office looks is important.
Choose a colour scheme that’s striking or unusual, include artwork that doesn’t solely involve inspiring quotes photoshopped onto waterfalls, and let your staff add their own personal flair to their desks or workstations.
Millennials, more than any other generation seek meaning fulfilment both in the workplace and at home – coming into an office that looks and feels inspiring and engaging is something that millennials are increasingly not just seeking, but expecting.
Whatever your industry, taking even just a few small steps to show you both understand and care about what your millennial staff want from their workplace, can make a world of difference.
Article written by James Hale. Thank you!