Inger Bartlett of Bartlett & Associates explores why designing an office space that is appealing to all generations is integral to a company’s success and employee satisfaction.
As the number of Gen Z cohorts entering the workforce continues to grow, companies need to pay special attention to the unique perspectives these individuals bring with them – particularly as the work-from-home pendulum swings back to more conventional in-office scenarios. The first generation to grow up completely online, these digital natives are innately tech-savvy; they are also ethically conscious, socially progressive, value inclusivity and acutely aware of the importance of a healthy and maintainable work/life balance. A fun environment makes a solid difference between what they can get at home and what you can get at the office. In other words, a draw into the office.
While a great number of Gen Z began their careers during the global pandemic – meaning they have likely not experienced the once-typical full-time office setting – they still recognize the need for creative collaboration and the significance of positive mentor-mentee working relationships. Key are the personal independent streaks of these workers and their future-forward work styles. In order to successfully attract and retain these individuals – without alienating older employees – modern-day offices need to appropriately reflect the changing needs of the workforce.
One aspect of office life that is important to this younger generation is the desire for transparency, and a breaking down of the hierarchal floorplans of the past. Gen Z wants access to experience, and this means access to those who can provide it. By removing walls and integrating entry-level workers with higher-ups, companies can signal that interaction is welcomed and encouraged. For the recently completed Toronto office of financial management company Wave, the design included three fun destinations that were designed for collaboration, individual heads down space and imaginative interaction spaces, resulting in the integration of creative elements to team up with the tech startup vibe. With its access to abundant natural light, ‘The Bleacher’, ‘The Airplane Lounge’ and ‘The Park’ at Wave also speak to the need for more human-centric fun design elements in the office.
Even though increasingly more companies are calling for an end to remote working, we don’t see the scenario disappearing entirely as more individuals from the Gen Z stream finish school and begin working. Instead, hybrid arrangements will become the norm for many. This means offices will need to be flexible and agile in order to accommodate both those that are in the space every day and those that come in one, two or three days a week. Simple moves like including adaptable boardrooms and meetings spaces that are equipped with monitors and communication technologies will easily allow for online collaborative sessions with co-workers who might be at home, on another floor or even down the hall.
Along with areas for employee-to-employee engagement, providing casual spaces where people can decompress and regroup is a key move that won’t go unappreciated – especially by a generation that prioritizes mental well-being in the workspace. For example, a café with a soothing color palette, access to natural light, biophilic features like live plants and a variety of seating options will create a place for camaraderie to evolve organically.
Designing an office space that is appealing to all generations and makes room for a range of preferred working methods takes some forethought and consideration, but it’s integral to a company’s success and employee satisfaction. Offices that encourage professional development through accessibility will be attractive to a generation that knows what it wants – and what it doesn’t. Dream about working in ‘The Bleacher’, ‘The Airplane Lounge’ and ‘The Park’!