3 Steps to a Millennial-Friendly Office Space
Millennials have for a number of years constituted the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, comprising 38% as of 2017. That’s up from 25% in 2011—and continuing to increase. Well-educated and diverse, Millennials bring with them new problem-solving skills and leadership techniques, and employers are bending over backwards to recruit and retain them.
Millennials spend a lot of time in the office—globally, 73% work more than 40 hours a week and nearly a quarter work over 50—making thoughtful office design and enticing amenities important in attracting qualified talent. And what Millennials are looking for in office space is not necessarily what their parents wanted. Millennials have some definite ideas about changes they want to see in their workplace—particularly in design, location, and company culture.
INNOVATION AND TEAMWORK THROUGH OPEN FLOOR PLANS
Personal connections are important to Millennials. They have grown up with social media and are used to sharing their lives with friends and co-workers. As a result, the concept of the private—but lonely—cubicle holds less appeal to them than it might to their older colleagues. More than previous generations, Millennials have a strong desire for the collaborative problem-solving and teamwork fostered by an open floor plan.
The trend toward open floor plans is not new, but it continues today largely due to Millennials’ desire for innovation and cohesive teamwork. While employers may not want to eliminate offices and cubicles altogether, they should at least make sure to include designated collaborative space—lounges and meeting rooms—that can hold more seats and tables for cooperative work.
On the flip side, employers who fully embrace the open floor plan concept should be sure to retain some private spaces for meetings and occasions when employees require more visual and/or auditory privacy than is typically afforded by an open plan. Modular office space, such as desks and partitions with wheels that allow employees to recreate the space to fit the needs of a particular day, may also be valuable.
REMOTE WORKSPACES AND TECHNOLOGY
Younger workers are looking for flexibility—in dress, in work spaces, and in work hours. This has led to an increase in the number of employees who spend at least part of their time working remotely. Many are telecommuting into the office, making conferencing technology such as Skype valuable, and making the private spaces referred to above all the more necessary to facilitate these types of meetings.
Technology in general is important: Millennials have never been without it. It’s how they learn, gather information, communicate. Access to reliable WiFi and a laptop or tablet that can be moved with the employee can significantly add to employee satisfaction.
With more employees working from home, some companies may require less of a physical footprint. Rather than making office space less important, this means that the physical office space that is provided must be more convenient and amenity-rich, providing an atmosphere in which young employees actually look forward to working.
People prefer to work in area convenient to where they live. With social interaction as a high priority, Millennials are increasingly choosing to live in cities, surrounded by friends and family—as well as by amenities such as restaurants, entertainment, and access to public transportation. Many workplaces are following suit, moving back from the suburbs.
Which is not to say that suburban office parks are no longer relevant. They will be more successful, however, if they are able to incorporate the types of innovative design and top amenities that Millennials have become accustomed to finding in urban locations. The suburbs have the benefit of space—rooms for outdoor patios and scenic bike paths. And as Millennials get older and start families, they—like their parents before them—may find the suburbs increasingly appealing.
Green buildings are good for more than just the planet—they are important for employers looking to attract top young talent. Climate change and protecting the environment are by far the biggest concerns of Millennials.
Since many Millennials want to work for environmentally-conscious companies that share their concerns, employers wishing to attract qualified talent should offer green amenities, such as solar panels, green walls, bike racks, and recycling and composting services. LEED certification—or better yet, LEED Zero certification (requiring annual energy consumption to be equal or less than the amount created on-site), can be a significant selling point for young people who are understandably concerned about the state of the environment.
Many new buildings are already built with a green infrastructure, but older buildings can be made more environmentally-friendly as well, and can be designated as LEED existing buildings.
It doesn’t matter whether you call it work-life balance or work-life integration: with technology making employees available 24/7, it is harder than ever to make “work” and “life” peacefully co-exist. So if Millennial employees have to deal with the downside—bosses expecting immediate responses to texts and employee availability for late night emergency calls—there had better be an upside, too.
Fortunately, there can be. It might be being able to attend a meeting via Skype rather than having to reschedule a vacation. Or having access to a relaxing office third place with a coffee bar and a ping pong table. Or even enjoying wellness-focused work amenities such as on-site fitness centers, massages, healthy food options, and green spaces.
Thoughtful office design and top-notch amenities have become important factors in recruiting and retaining qualified Millennial talent. Employees are looking for a workplace that is flexible, convenient, and amenity-rich, and the most desirable office space will be that which meets these needs.
What changes can you make to allow your space to be more friendly?