One of the biggest factors shaping office design is the fact that ‘Generation Y’ millennials will make up more than 75 per cent of the Australian workforce by 2025.*
The statistic means providing spaces attractive to multi-generational workforces – a mix of baby boomers and those born between 1980 and 2000 currently aged between 18 and 38 – is an imperative for all industries.
Even Hollywood has acknowledged the trend, seeing fit to cast A-list heavyweights Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway in 2015 movie The Intern, in which a 70-year-old former corporate manager (De Niro) re-enters the workforce as a senior intern at an online fashion company headed by an ambitious young CEO (Hathaway).
The new generation is forcing unprecedented changes in office design, broadening its scope from open plan to closed spaces into lengthy analysis of company processes and worker psychology, according to leading office designers and architects.
Health, wellness, technology, status, and even our daily lives, must be accounted for. Office designers must consider not only how to facilitate the tasks people at any given company need to perform but also exactly how those people want to feel.
Health and wellness is now a number one priority for all generations, says Rebecca Reid, Head Designer of Evoke Projects whose clients have included Fairfax and Oxford University Press.
“We’re seeing a lot of yoga studios and wellness hubs giving staff the facilities to get away and focus on their health,” Ms Reid says.
“End of trip facilities – bike racks and showers – are also what both younger and older generations want to see, and exercise spaces where an instructor might come in twice a week.”
Adhering to the Well Building Standard requirements of providing optimal air, light, nourishment, water, fitness, comfort and mind can be applied even in the smallest ways to encourage every generation of employee to look and feel better.
“Fluorescents in workplaces disturb our circadian rhythms,” Ms Reid points out, “so lighting that varies slightly throughout the day can be installed, and making sure long-term working points are near natural light and ensuring there is no glare can make a big difference to everyone’s mindset.”
These design trends are borne out in the findings of one of the most recent studies into multigenerational workforces by global organisation the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).
The CompTIA study released in September this year found that among the common career aspirations shared by employees regardless of age differences were wanting to feel passionate about their work and achieve a health work/life balance.
Yet the bar for creating a space in which this transpires has been raised to its highest level so far thanks to an up and coming workforce driven by social media,” says Dana Moussaoui, Head Designer for interior, design and commercial office management company A1 Office.
“The new generation wants the best of everything,” Ms Moussaoui says. “The new generation is focusing on ‘where do I feel better’ – and forced a new way of designing offices.”
Providing an office with seamless technology is paramount, as is creating engaging spaces in which all generations feel comfortable, a task that has created some uplifting outcomes.
“The thing is that we’re finding those bridges between the younger and older generations because everyone has the child within them,” Ms Moussaoui says.
“I haven’t seen any resistance – the older generation is embracing the fun and driving that push for the understand of new technology as well.”
For instance, a recent project saw A1 Office create a workspace with a golf simulator as well as a Monopoly board on the walls. The design inclusions were all agreed to by a baby boomer business owner who employed people his own age but also needed his company to be attractive to new generations.
Designing modern offices is an multi-faceted task now. An office design team must be involved in facilitating an entire company’s ongoing process, not just provide a designer and builder, Ms Moussaoui says.
Older business owners also need to realise that following trends does not always work, she added. Tried and tested formulas are there for a reason.
In one case, a protracted design consultation with a company CEO who thought rejigging his office into full open plan would attract younger workers did a complete turnaround when he realised the effects it would have on his employee’s concepts of status and progression as well as privacy.
“Some traditions like the corner office are still real requirements in some industries such as law and finance,” Ms Moussaoui says.
*Source: Kronos Incorporated 2016 study