Designing Your Office for the Largest Generation
How to create responsive space that appeals to Generation Z
Workforce, make way. The oldest members of Generation Z are graduating college and university. Born between 1996 and 2010, these teens and young adults number 2 billion worldwide, making them the largest generation. By 2020, they’ll make up 20% of the American workforce.
Generation Z are our first, true digital natives. They don’t remember a time before the world wide web. On average, they use five screens a day. They spend six to 10 hours a day online and, according to Forbes, have only an eight-second attention span. Technology is integrated into their social relationships. That may sound concerning to other generations, but it’s the new normal to them.
This generation saw their parents struggle through the great recession. As a result, their career priorities are often pragmatic. While Millennials seek out purpose, Generation Z is focused on stability and financial return. They also believe they’ll have to work harder and longer than previous generations.
So how do we help this generation succeed in the workplace and be happier in their careers? Their work environment plays a key role.
Spaces for collaboration and solitude
According to Work Design Magazine, an ideal workplace has “a mix of private, dedicated workspaces, collaboration spaces, cafe-style temporary workspaces and lots of meeting rooms.”
According to Inc, 72% of Gen Z prefer face-to-face communication. Text messages came in second for preferred communication methods (11%), followed by emails (9%), and the now archaic phone call (2%). Perhaps surprisingly, social collaboration tools like Slack were cited at 1%). So those beautifully-funky communal spaces you designed for Millennials—they’re important for Gen Z too.
But this generation craves time and space to work alone too. And they don’t want to be stuck at their desks all day.
Creating quiet enclosed spaces where people can hunker down will appeal to Generation Z. Away from the open-layout desks, these pods can be acoustically enclosed with soft walls and floors, and a door with a tight seal. Comfortable seating invites the mind and body to relax and let the ideas flow.
Flexible spaces are also ideal. This cafe area in the New York DIRTT Experience Center is a great example.
The collaboration area in our Chicago Experience Center takes advantage of flexibility too. “When the folding Leaf® wall is open, it can be a large meeting or breakout space that still feels connected,” says Tori Cnudde, DIRTT Interior Designer. Closing the wall creates a more intimate space. “We used DIRTT casework to create cabinets that can be used for display and create practical storage.”
It goes without saying as digital natives Gen Z expect the latest technology.
According to architectural technologist Brett Allen, DIRTT’s technology integration team has an overriding goal: “Take technology elements and bring the walls to life.”
“DIRTT doesn’t provide the technology. We trial run technologies and recommend solutions for our clients.”
For example, more and more teams are looking for human-scale conferencing options. Technologies like these can potentially bring remote workers into the office and give Generation Z the human touch and sense of community they crave. And DIRTT can facilitate it.
Because Generation Z believes they are going to have to work hard, your office should promote productivity while lowering stress. It needs to be and feel healthy.
Well-being and flexibility
Movement promotes brain function, productivity, and health. It in your best interests to get your people out of their chairs. That can start with well-designed collaboration, breakout rooms or those enticing nooks we’ve talked about earlier. Dedicated nap, mediation, or yoga rooms are a clear signal you care about your employees’ health, be it physical or mental. You may even encourage your employees to take the stairs with the right design.
Or it could mean including sit-stand desks to give people the opportunity to get their blood flowing while they work.
Undoubtedly, Generation Z will have their own ideas about the spaces they want to work in. Like technology, design is constantly evolving. We don’t know what Gen Z has in store for us. But with an adaptable construction system like DIRTT, we don’t have to.
Resources and further reading
Work Design Magazine: What Kind of Workplace Design Will Attract Gen Z? Just ask the Colleges ↗
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