Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) now comprise over one-third of American workers, so it’s understandable that organizational leaders are paying special attention to the needs of this generation.
Broadly speaking, Millennials share traits such as individuality and technological savviness. In the workplace, this group seeks regular feedback, recognition, and work-life balance. Millennials also value collaboration and teamwork. Companies hoping to attract and retain professionals in this generation might adjust compensation structures, time off policies, and the availability of technology in the workplace. In addition, if collaboration and teamwork are important company values, leaders may appeal to Millennials by offering collaborative, team-based responsibilities.
Managers might even adjust their office design to appeal to Millennial workers.
Some contemporary employers – think Google and Facebook – have popularized wide open work spaces with few doors or private spaces. But Trevor said this trend actually runs counter-intuitive to Millennial tendencies.
“It’s a myth that open spaces make things more collaborative,” said Trevor. The lack of privacy or noise control can frustrate Millennials who like socialization but value privacy. In fact, workspaces are now trending back toward cubicles and private spaces – but with conference rooms and collaborative spaces available.
US workers are struggling to work effectively. Overall workplace performance has dropped 6% as measured by aggregate WPI (Workplace Performance Index) scores for Gensler’s 2008 and 2013 survey respondents. The decrease in the effectiveness of focus work as ranked by employees drove this decline. Results show focus as a key effectiveness driver—those who can focus are also more able to collaborate, learn, and socialize than those who cannot. Interestingly, this pairs with a shift in how employees are spending their time: Time spent collaborating has decreased by 20% since 2008, while time spent focusing has increased by 13%.
Effective workplaces balance focus and collaboration. While individual focus and collaborative work are often thought to be opposites, our research demonstrates that they function best as complements. For the 24% of respondents who report that their workplaces reflect their companies’ prioritizing both individual and collaborative work—what we call a “balanced workplace”—we see significant spikes in performance. Importantly, our findings show that balance is possible in both open office and private office environments.
So what is the solution for contemporary workplace design?
In Trevor’s experience: “There is no single ubiquitous key design factor that fits with the culture and generational mix of any organization. General rules of thumb apply such as rich technology, access to resources, and choices geared towards productivity. However, it’s the role of the design team to explore and expose the unique design challenge for each project which ultimately empowers the whole community. This is our service to people we design for at Hoffman.”