The Workplace Evolution: How The Generational Shift Affects Workplace Design

Henry David Thoreau once famously wrote the words, “Things do not change; we change.”

Now more than ever, we are experiencing change in the workforce. A generational shift is taking place as Traditionals and Boomers phase into retirement, making room for the incoming generation of Gen Z while sustaining a large amount of Millennials. In 2015, Millennials just surpassed Gen X as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. It is not just the type of workers that are changing, but also the types of work that is being done in the workplace every day. As people change so does work, and naturally a change in work requires a change in the space(s) where work is done. Both existing and incoming generations of workers require work spaces that support their work style, especially work spaces that support technology; and not just the technology provided for them at work, but their own technology should they choose to bring their devices into the workplace. New workers, new work, and new work spaces: all in flux and part of shaping a working world that complies with the necessity of having “choice” in today’s workforce.

Work has evolved in many ways over the years and what has also evolved is the way in which work has been perceived. Dependent on the task at hand, work can be collaborative and chatty or solitary and quiet, but it is most always complex. All work is not the same; thus, different work requires different spaces. Forget the challenge of choosing open office vs. closed offices – in today’s world, both are important and both are necessary. Why? Because every worker is different; completing different tasks, with different goals, and different work styles. It is imperative to design a balanced “hybrid” work space that showcases creative, collaborative spaces for employees to come together and also private areas for quieter, independent tasks. In 2013, 1 Million for Work Flexibility was founded. This initiative gave a voice to the millions of people who wanted, and more so needed, the flexible work options mentioned above. Today 72% of businesses support workplace flexibility and have come to understand the need for a balanced work space that caters to all workers, all work styles and all types of work.

Below are four examples of balanced “hybrid” office spaces that provide choice, and the features that makes them efficient:

In the foreground, open area “dog-bone” desking with a dividing privacy panel allow employees to communicate while still having a certain level of privacy available to them during “heads down” tasks. Parallel to that area sits a high-top table with a writable panel that allows for brainstorming and collaboration. In the background, closed offices for focused work line the back wall and beyond that is a phone room, or “quiet room”, that welcomes up to two employees whether it be a personal phone call or a private conversation.

Private offices line the perimeter of the space, offering both the visual privacy by way of privacy banding on the glass fonts and audio privacy from being an enclosed space. A small casual meeting table with ottomans sits in the middle of the open space, suggesting a quick casual meeting or conversation. Desks are grouped in the background, with privacy paneling on all three sides for an open yet private work area. AV-ready meeting rooms sit beyond the open space, ready for intimate video conferencing or in-house meetings.

A lounge-inspired collaborative work area sits in the middle of the work space with cornered paneling on each side to provide an element of visual privacy. Parallel to this space sits a freestanding island that generates impromptu meetings and casual conversation while employees circulate through the central office. AV-ready closed offices line the back wall, while back-to-back open desking fills the rest of the space.

An open “resimercial” lounge area for informal meetings or relaxing introduces you to the space, opening up to perimeter closed offices that wrap around the central hub of the space. In the center is a freestanding semi-private AV equipped meeting space for casual meetings and brainstorming. Additional private areas such as conference and meetings rooms continue to wrap around the central hub, closed off by glass doors.

In order to continue to attain and attract the talent of incoming generation, Gen Z, and retain the Millennials that currently exist, there must be change – change that breeds a culture of choice. A balanced workplace design gives employees choice: choice to work where they want, when they want, dependent on the task at hand. If your business is already incorporating workplace flexibility into your culture, you are one step ahead of many more businesses that are soon to follow. By adapting and making these changes, you are that much closer to attaining new talent who are able to perform to the best of their ability because they are equipped with the flexible work space and the functionality that they need to succeed.


Article By – Brittany Huber, Marketing Coordinator