For the first time in history, there are five distinct generations working side by side: the traditional generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Z. Each generation has been influenced by the major historical events, social trends, and cultural phenomena of its time. These forces shape ideas about everything from expectations and perceptions about what the workplace will provide and how employees should behave, and gradually, drive the future trends for workplace design.
Moving over Gen Y (ages 21 to 32), Gen Z (ages 16-20) is set to be the youngest generation in the workforce, representing the greatest generational shift the workplace has ever witnessed. They are entering the workforce with an entirely new set of values, attitudes and beliefs.
They are highly-educated, mobile and technology savvy, with a strong desire for freedom - free working location, free communications, free work schedule and free workmates. Growing up in the internet-ruled world with high-speed internet, smartphones, tablets and online shopping, Gen Z has their own behaviours, presenting profound challenges to the business and HR leaders in every sector of the workforce.
According to the recent study, ‘Gen Y and Gen Z Workplace Expectations’, co-produced by Millennial Branding and Randstad, the findings revealed that Gen Z is entrepreneurial, less motivated by money and more focused on face-to-face communication compared to Gen Y.
Nevertheless, both generations like to work with technology to help them accomplish their goals and selected a corporate office space as their top work environment and co-working space as their second choice. While facility location is more important to Gen Y (47 per cent) over Gen Z (36 per cent), Gen Z (38 per cent) has greater interest to personalise their own work space than Gen Y (34 per cent).
Without doubt, Gen Z is a multi-tasking workforce which demands for a spatial flexibility and functionality. Workplace that is urban, flexible, collaborative and unconventional is perfect for them. So, how the future workplace of millennial generation would look like?
Future Workplace Design
With Gen Z’s strong demand for flexible and functional workspace, the concept of ‘office-without-walls’ will absolutely point a way for mainstream workplace strategies, challenging the traditional workplace design which is overwhelmed with confined cubicles, assigned desks and corner offices for executives.
To accommodate the needs of millennial generation, a workplace should have collaboration and social networking space to adapt to Gen Z's new way of thinking and working. Adopting open floor plans with co-working space in the form of ‘Plug and Play’ work stations and free seating will be the future trend to create a team-based, collaborative work environment. Such office design will encourage mobility, allow interaction and bring individuals agreat deal of autonomy and flexibility in the way they work.
Spacious stylish breakout areas and lounges would be perfect to cater to sociable Gen Z, who thrives for interactions and work-life balance, totally unlike the earlier generations who demand formal office space unveiling levels of hierarchy, security and structured face-to-face meetings.
When it comes to private group meetings, conference rooms should be well-equipped with sophisticated telepresence facilities to offer an immersive video conferencing environment essential for technology savvy Gen Z to communicate with their overseas counterparts and clients anytime, anywhere. Smaller meeting rooms should also be especially designed with glass writing walls to support Gen Z’s creativity and productivity during discussion.
To conclude, generations are increasingly separated along narrower age bands, urging companies to look into the needs and preferences of the five distinct generations working side by side. Bridging significant differences between the generations with effective workplace strategies is critical to produce a healthy, productive and competitive work environment. With the new age concept of an ‘office-without-walls’, the flexible office space approach has been continuously evolving, allowing different generations to collaborate seamlessly. Overall, the new workplace trends present both huge opportunities as well as challenges to all businesses.