Workforce and Diversity

REignite: Workplace Design for the Generations

By Kevin Rettle, FMP
April 27th, 2012

Kevin L. Rettle

Today’s office planning approach has come full circle, from the organizational needs of the late 20th century to the uber-individual focus of the dot.com era, to what is now a hybrid of both.  Companies have long seen space as a differentiating factor in attracting talent, but with four generations in the workplace for the first time, all with vastly different attitudes and work styles in the place of work, companies must now re-think how space works for them.

Innovation, speed to market, security, safety, and image still continue to drive design decisions, but now layer on the workstyles of most organizations spanning four demographics: Baby Boom (born 1946-64), Generation X (born 1965-77) and Generation Y or the Millennials (born 1978-99), and Generation Z (born starting in 1990). Aging boomers are still the largest group, but the mix is changing quickly as 20-something workers bring new attitudes to the workplace. For example, the youngest workers, who have grown up wired, love technology and the flexibility it gives them to multitask in a variety of settings, including non-traditional ones.

 

For the first time, four generations are present in the workplace.

Factors Beyond Space

It is not just the “plug and play” Y generation that has high expectations for technology in the workplace. New technologies have given all workers greater mobility and have increased the demand for alternative, multipurpose workspaces with ubiquitous power and wireless capabilities. Ready access to the right technology — including electronic whiteboards, plasma screens, projectors, and video conferencing, as well as computing — enables communication and performance at every level, for every age group.

Workplace Starts at the Front Door
The demand for a quality worklife isn’t confined to corporate offices. For most employees the workday experience begins and ends in the lobby of the building, and developers and building owners are reconsidering what design features and amenities will make their properties attractive to a new generation of tenants. To be competitive, Class A buildings, whether they are new construction or repositioned properties, now feature active entry lobbies with great curb appeal — a concept that has evolved dramatically since the 1970s and 1980s, when the office tower was designed more as a corporate icon than as a vital part of the work experience. Set back from stark entry plazas, the sleek lobbies were treated as voids, sheathed in stone and dark glass.

Community-Minded
In our recent Workplace Trends Report, I explored the resurrection of evidence-based space design (EBD).  In the brief I explore this:  as corporate real estate executives transition their roles from administrative tactics to enablers of their companies’ performance, the use of evidence based design becomes a natural instrument to the creation of space and service architectures that maximize performance of individuals and organizations. 

Architects, designers, and service professionals are being challenged more than ever to create inspiring space that is both beautiful and functional; offices and workspaces that are collaborative, but also contribute to effective individual work; amenities that contribute to efficient output while creating places that people want to work at; hard services that safely maintain mission critical plant operations 24/7 and contribute to healthful environments.  EBD connects end user needs and expectations with architecture and design considerations, while enabling fact-based decisions that are also fiscally responsible.  

Sodexo has long used proprietary evidence based design methods in developing service architectures that yield highly performing individuals, contributing to the progress of the organizations that they serve, and spaces that are inspirational, while also minimizing environmental impact (part of our Better Tomorrow commitments.)  Still wondering what I mean? Learn more by reading our Nokia case study, or better yet, stop by at CoreNet this weekend ( booth 225) and talk with us about how you can REignite your workforce through innovation and planning for the workplace of the future.

Kevin Rettle, FMP, is the director of FM/CRE Market Research & Insights, Sodexo.

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