Office Design Tips For A Multigenerational Workforce

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Office Design Tips For A Multigenerational Workforce

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By: Hilary Simmons


It goes without saying that great ideas come in all shapes and sizes, and at every age. There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for success. But when it comes to figuring out how to accommodate generational differences in the workplace, life can get tricky.

We’re at an interesting point in history right now where workplaces are increasingly populated with a mixture of generations. In theory, modern workplaces may have employees ranging in age from 18 to 80, all with varying workstyles and mindsets.

So, first off, let’s clarify exactly what we mean by a generation. Loosely defined, it refers to a group of people born around the same time and raised around the same place. There are clear cultural differences between each generation, and a lot of debate about when each one begins and ends.

That said, it’s generally agreed that five generations make up our society. This means most workplaces include four to five generations:

• Pre-Boomers or the Silent Generation: born between 1929 and 1945
• Baby Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964
• Generation X: born between 1965 and 1976
• Generation Y or Millennials: born between 1977 and 1995
• Gen Z, iGen or Centennials: born 1996 or later

Each brings to the workplace their own strengths, weaknesses and viewpoints. Each has vastly different expectations when it comes to working conditions and environments. But there’s one thing that every generation has in common…

 

Every generation rates the office workspace as important.

At Ascot, we’re often asked to provide design solutions for multigenerational work environments. We’ve seen a lot of trends come and go, and while many people think that a multigenerational workplace comprises an open-plan space filled with ping-pong tables and ‘breakout’ zones, that simply isn’t the case.

In our view, a multigenerational workplace is an adaptive working environment that accommodates a range of specific needs. Catering for generational differences in an office requires a lot of design flexibility, but a lot of benefits result from that extra thought and diligence.

Here are three major factors we recommend our clients keep in mind when looking at design options for a multigenerational workplace.

 

1. Company culture

How does your company like to do business? Do you tend to favour ‘collaborative’ or ‘in-person’ approaches to projects?

Typically, Gen X and Y value having open-plan spaces that promote a sense of community and social interaction, whereas Baby Boomers prefer a secluded office in which to work quietly. This can create challenges when it comes to office design.

The solution is to create a hybrid working space that combines the best features of different office designs. Consider a ‘landscaped’ office – one that is still essentially open-plan but includes several enclosed offices, a set of cubicle banks, and some formal and informal meeting spaces.

Creating a range of spaces for employees to move freely between helps balance the younger generations’ need to feel connected with the older generations’ need for privacy.

The aim is not to design an age-neutral workplace – rather, to create one that is age-supportive, and caters to differing workstyles and preferences.

 

2. Technology trends

There’s no denying that mobile technology has fundamentally changed the way we work and interact with one another – and nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace.

Smart devices allow us to access information, email, calendars or social media accounts almost instantly. This means that bulky desktop computers are on the way out in offices and ‘hot-desking’ is on the way in.

‘Hot-desking’ is just a fancy term for desk-swapping, and refers to the practice of allocating desks to workers as required or on a rota system, rather than giving each worker their own
permanent desk.

If your organisation has employees who often work remotely or are away from their desk for large portions of the day, you may what to consider how you can repurpose that space in their absence. Mobile technology has enabled most of us to only need a mobile and laptop at work – so the days of personalised assigned desks seem to be numbered.

Activity-based offices offer an alternative to the hot-desking setup. They’re designed to allow staff to move freely around the space and settle into different areas according to the activity they’re performing. An advantage of an activity-based design is that it assists in encouraging cross-generational interaction.

Over the last four decades, we’ve successfully helped many different businesses create activity-based spaces, so if this solution sparks your interest, reach out to our team at Ascot Commercial Group.

 

3. Sustainability

One thing concerning all generations today is finding ways to bring energy-efficient solutions into our homes and businesses. The built environment is responsible for a whopping 40 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions so designing or refurbishing offices to be more sustainable is crucial.

Plus, ‘green’ or sustainable buildings are also known as ‘high performance buildings’ because they save on running costs. Through improved lighting and air quality, they are designed to increase productivity and wellbeing for occupants through improved lighting and air quality.

Sustainable design requires less building infrastructure, produces less heat, and consumes less power than traditional workspaces, yet at the same time has been shown to support employees more effectively.

Sustainable design involves:

• Reduced consumption of materials and equipment
• Improved energy efficiency
• Increased space utilisation
• Reduced electronic and office waste

This doesn’t necessarily mean higher project costs. There are a number of things that we do at Ascot Commercial Group which have very little negative cost impact and a number which
actually have a positive cost impact! Contact us to find out more about environmentally-friendly initiatives in office design and ask our friendly team which one of our products feature environmental accreditation.

 

Wrapping up

When tailoring workplaces, a one-size-fits-all approach clearly will not cater for a multigenerational workforce. Take some time to understand and think about what motivates each generation and what each offers in experience and expertise. Treat planning an office for a multigenerational workforce as an opportunity, not a challenge.

Generational differences actually present a positive opportunity for development right across the spectrum.

At Ascot, we specialise in commercial interior design. Our experienced office designers and fit-out specialists can help you navigate the options to create a working environment that helps all employees achieve maximum productivity.


Reach out to our expert team at Ascot Commercial Group today on 1300 720 608, or arrange a site visit with one of our consultants.


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