Millennials, for example, prefer to blur the lines behind home and work, favoring residential looks for their office spaces that evoke the comforts of their living spaces. Baby Boomers, however, have reported feeling uncomfortable about this trend, preferring more delineated lines between home and work.
This difference in preferences of course has important implications for your next office fit-out. After all, the last thing you want is to have invested all that time, money and energy into an office space redesign, only to find productivity and employee satisfaction plummeting as a result.
But how exactly do you keep everyone happy and achieve maximum ROI from the new office fit-out?
Here are our top 5 tips for designing for a multigenerational workforce.
Forget the ping-pong table and beanbag chairs for a second, and ask yourself, ‘What is it that employees need to be able to do over the course of the working day?’
Is it a creative agency that needs a space dedicated to brainstorming? Is it a finance organisation where people need quiet, private booths for deep concentration?
The tasks your employees need to perform, as well as your company culture, will have a marked effect on the types of zones and features your new office needs.
A large formal conference room with water views, for example, may look so impressive – but if most of your employees prefer to collaborate informally and in small groups, this space is going to be underutilised. And an underutilised space is simply a waste of money.
That’s why, at Studio DB, we are big proponents of evidence-based design, which configures the design around actual evidence regarding the culture of the organisation and how your employees prefer to work (as opposed to assumption-based design, where you impose a design that you think will work, and expect your employees to adapt to it).
It can be easy to get hung up on the seemingly irreconcilable differences between generations – for example, younger generations might want more spaces to socialise, while older workers might want private offices that reflect organisational hierarchy.
But there are also many similarities, and these similarities can be the key to designing a workplace that makes everyone comfortable and productive.
Both Baby Boomers and Millennials, for example, want to feel they are doing meaningful work, so finding ways to reflect the company’s mission and its positive initiatives through a workplace redesign can help boost employee satisfaction.
This is precisely what we did when we overhauled our head office. Our new design showcases our vision and innovation, with our mission statement, ‘To Create Vibrant Workspaces’, visibly emblazoned on the wall as you enter the space.
Most generations also value mentorship and personal connections with their employees, which could be fostered by including more informal socialising spaces or introducing collaborative technologies, to help bring disparate generations together and encourage knowledge sharing and mentorship.
You can bridge the gap between generations even further by being clever with how you utilise spaces and what types of furnishings you use to make the space as flexible as possible. Indeed, flexibility is a key consideration when it comes to attracting A-grade talent.
Having a variety of spaces, for example, such as quiet spaces; small, informal meeting rooms; collaborative areas; and large gathering areas for town-hall meetings, will ensure that workers of all generations can find the conditions they need to operate at their peak.
You could also use flexible desks that can be configured to standing desks, or movable desks that can be easily wheeled into a variety of configurations to easily transform spaces as needed.
A successful multigenerational workplace depends largely on employee buy-in, which is why it’s important to communicate regularly with employees not just before an office fit-out, but also after, to help make the integration into a new space as smooth as possible.
Having clarity around how new spaces should be used, for example, can help ensure that employees understand their purpose and use them appropriately, and that no anxiety or conflict is arising from misunderstandings or different expectations.
Training is also important – after all, there’s no point investing money in the latest cutting-edge technologies if employees don’t know how to use it.
All these measures can help staff adapt quickly to their new environment, to ensure you start reaping the goals of the fit-out as soon as possible.