3 Contradictions about How Millennials Influence Office Design
1. Complete Independence AND Constant Collaboration
Only the oldest Millennials can remember life before the Internet. Interactive technology, paperless documentation and connecting anytime from anywhere are all part of the culture they grew up immersed in. Two pedagogical practices dominated their education from the earliest days: a focus on independent study and an emphasis on group project work. As a result, Millennials shift easily from working alone to working in small and large groups to accomplish their goals.
It’s a generational mindset that suits the project-oriented nature of the modern workplace. And, the mindset is reflected in office design. Space itself has to shift from individual to group needs. It shows up in office design in several ways. Whiteboard or chalkboard paint turns every wall into a collective brainstorming space, cubicles that transform from standing to sitting desks makes presentation for feedback easier. Privacy pods can be booked to offer the ultimate in concentration conditions – if the Millennials can’t just work from home.
2. Flexibility AND Rigidity
Anytime, anywhere connectedness means that the workday and all its demands extend into every aspect of life. Millennials accept this and are flexible about work time. Employers set expectations about what work must be done and by what deadline. Millennials meet those expectations in their own way.
That said, there are non-negotiable items too. As a group, Millennials drive less than other generations. They not only have a different attitude toward cars and commuting, but they want to work near where they live. For expanding companies, that means fewer moves out to suburban industrial zones and more solid foundations in high-density urban communities. It means less emphasis on providing parking and more bike lockers and shower facilities for a Millennial-style cycling commute. It also means that apps to support trends like hot desking are allowing companies to provide work facilities only for those who are on-site at a given time.
3. Anti-Social AND Completely Networked
If Millennials can avoid a meeting, whether held in person or by Skype, or even a voice call, they will. Email, text messages, and shared document folders all enable Millennials to communicate and be productive according to their individual workflow. At the same time, social media has been integrated into CRM and internal communications software, so Millennials are completely aware of what is happening with their clients and colleagues all the time.
This contradiction too is integrated into modern office design. Employee lounges and lunchrooms, even meeting rooms have a more casual feel to take the edge off face-to-face communication. Floor coverings that mute sound, well-padded and warm-toned upholstery all make for a home-like atmosphere that encourages Millennial workers to stay and hang out rather than get back on their screens as quickly as possible.
By embracing the contradictions of the Millennial mindset, contemporary office design encourages both the formal and informal collaboration and interaction that increases productivity. It is nothing short of reinventing the nature of work.