Millennials and Office Design: An Evolving Story

By Alec Wilcox, Commercial Real Estate Representative

The unemployment rate for both Iowa and the nation has been decreasing since the recession of 2008. A low unemployment rate is a sign of economic growth, but also influences an organization’s ability to attract and retain top level talent. This, coupled with the entry of younger millennials and members of Gen Z into the workforce is pushing companies to find new ways of setting themselves apart.

One of the ways employers are striving to set themselves apart is through the design of and amenities included in their workspace. Here is your guide to win the war for talent with…

  1. Office design trends that have proven attractive to younger members of the workforce.
  2. Amenity trends that hold value to a younger workforce.
  3. How companies can design and organize a workspace to attract and retain young talent, while satisfying the needs of older generations within the workplace.

Office Layouts

When it comes to workspace layout, maintaining and increasing productivity is always key. However, the increasing amount of younger millennials and members of Gen Z is causing the way many employers define productivity to change. With constant access to technology through smartphones and tablets, individuals now can work essentially anywhere. Thus, the need for isolated offices just isn’t important as it used to be. Office spaces are being opened and filled with collaboration spaces, lounge areas, and cafes.

Collaborative spaces have become common at many businesses.

Companies are now more focused on effectively using every square foot of their space, which is leading to smaller offices and closer proximity of employees. This encourages collaboration, a major trend in current workspace design. While younger members of the workforce are attracted to open office layouts with plenty of collaboration areas, the desire for occasional privacy has not changed. And, the solution to this desire is solved through private enclaves. These spaces can be used whenever someone needs to make a private call, hold a private meeting, or simply take a few minutes to themselves.

Office Amenities

Changing how offices are laid out isn’t the only way organizations are trying to attract and retain young talent. The most significant tactic organizations are using is the implementation of amenities in the workspace. Amenities can vary greatly ranging from fitness centers to dog-friendly office spaces.

Natural daylight can boost employees’ physical and mental health.

The goal in implementing these amenities is singular; to increase productivity through the happiness and engagement of employees.

However, some amenities are more effective in accomplishing this goal than others.

The most effective office amenities are those that muddy the lines between work and leisure. For example, cafes, walkable environments, and proximity to restaurants, banks, and other retail options allow employees to spend free time during the work day completing personal activities with greater ease. In-house amenities such as fitness centers and rooftop patios accomplish this goal as well.

One amenity that consistently corresponds with higher levels of employee productivity is access to natural light. In fact, a study performed by researchers at Northwestern University, employees who experienced natural light throughout the workday slept an average of 46 more minutes each night than employees confined to artificial light. Exposure to natural light is a great amenity that not only helps improve employee productivity, but mental and physical health as well.

Tying it all Together

There are currently five generations in the American workforce today. Therefore, organizations cannot design office layouts and implement amenities that solely cater to younger members of the workforce exclusively. Office design must be as inclusive to all generations as possible. The beauty of this task is that research has shown many of the core values held by millennials and members of Gen Z regarding workspace design are the same values held by older generations. Think about it this way:

  • All generations desire separate and distinct areas for privacy and collaboration.
  • Natural light is important to a person’s mental and physical well-being, regardless of age.
  • Everyone wants an area in which they can be away from work for a while.

Therefore, the amenities that draw on any of those three values or preferences will improve the productivity and well-being of all employees, from Gen Z to Baby Boomers.

Outdoor workspaces are an often desired office amenity by millennials.

To summarize, there’s a “war for talent” happening right now. Organizations are pulling out all the stops to attract and retain top talent, across the generational spectrum. The strongest weapon an employer can have in their arsenal is a differentiating factor. Office design and amenities are factors that can be unique to an organization to the point that they become differentiating factors. Therefore, a strong understanding of current design trends and amenity implementation is so crucial for employers.

As a millennial myself, I have special insight into the preferences and desires of this younger generation. And, as a commercial real estate professional, I’m uniquely positioned to help organizations weaponize their office space in the war for talent.

For more on an office that’s capable of attracting and retaining millennials or members of Gen Z, call (515) 223-4500 or email me today.