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Office Design for the New Workforce

How to create a space to attract and retain millennials

The workforce is changing. Baby boomers are retiring. Gen X are leaders. Millennials are growing up. And Generation Z is graduating. But what does all this mean to workplace design? In this two-part series, we’ll talk about using your office interior to attract and cater to the up-and-comers.

Millennials are no longer the new folks on the scene. Born between 1981 and 1995, Generation Y makes up 50% of the workforce. Six years from now, they’ll be the majority at 75%. 

There’s high turnover among Millennials. Gallup research says 60% are open to new job opportunities and 21% have changed jobs in the last year (three times the number of non-millennials). But this isn’t necessarily because of the negative stereotypes that they’re entitled and difficult to please. Instead, Millennials are aspirational. They hope to lend their talents and passions to make the world a better place. They prioritize experiences and are technology pioneers. 

For all these reasons, we’ve seen office design transform from lifeless grey Office-Space-like cubicles to Google wonderlands where anything is possible. 

Google Crossman

IMAGE CREDIT: Marco Zecchin

Showcase your culture and purpose

When Millennials look for work, they prioritize purpose. Ideally, their employer’s values align with their own. At minimum, they seek out companies whose vision speaks to meaning. Bottom line: millennials want to feel like they’re part of something that has a positive impact. 

We worked with a Calgary-based tech company where purpose is at the heart of their culture and their work. They designed bold, colorful graphics with inspirational messages and printed them directly on DIRTT solid wall panels. Here, the walls do triple duty. They bring the space to life and make it fun to be in. They offer an ever-present reminder to employees and visitors of the company’s why. And they separate the space with the option for future adaptability. 

Bold graphic wall panels are a triple threat

Mariner Holdings in Kansas celebrates their culture with a massive mural on their DIRTT walls. An employee-wide competition invited people to design an image that represented the company and the winner became a focal point for the office. 

Designing around your values can be a subtle way to make a big impact. GM Financial Service Center in Texas designed their office to show how much they care about how their employees feel at work. Breakout spaces incorporate timber, art glass, and comfortable seating. Cozy banquettes in the café overlook treetops through huge windows. Punches of bright color make the space vibrant and fun. All of these touches invite employees to feel at home, at work. 

Graphics displayed on Corning® Willow® Glass at Mariner Holdings

Bob Greenspan Photography

Timber adds warmth to the GM Financial Service Center

IMAGE CREDIT: Mark Menjivar Photographer

Embed experience into your design

Most millennials value experiences. A study by Harris Group found that 78% of millennials would rather spend money on a memorable experience than on things. Spending on live events, eating out, and travel is on the rise according to McKinsey. When design is done right, spaces can create experiences for people in their daily work environment too.  

We bring experiences into the everyday. “We incorporate java centers or kitchenettes with a great coffee machine and coffee bar that brings coffee culture into the office,” says Tori Cnuddle, DIRTT interior designer. These spaces give employees a place to dip out of their work and chat, refuel, or take a much-needed break. 

he java station at the Calgary DIRTT Experience Center


An experience can be something beautiful or unexpected. Interesting shapes, colors, building materials, and ceiling pitches all transform this meeting room into something far more than a place to meet. It’s comfortable, interesting, and creative. It’s the kind of place where fresh ideas are born.

Spaces that offer room to have an experience


Keep your open-concept office acoustically sound

Traditional top-down design has largely been shirked for open-concept offices. Millennials don’t want to lead from a corner office. But working from the hive presents its own challenges, like noise. 

“Acoustics are super important in an open office,” says Cnudde, who takes noise into account for all of her designs. That can mean making an enclosed space more soundproof with soft floors, double or triple insulation in the walls, and sealed doors. The acoustic needs of every space are different so it’s important to start a conversation to make sure you have the speech privacy you need in balance with your budget. 

Separate spaces for speech privacy


Technology that makes sense

Millennials want intuitive technology at their fingertips while they work. It makes sense. They have it in every other aspect of their lives. Brett Allen is an architectural technologist who leads DIRTT’s integrated technology team. “We’re not only integrating interactivity,” says Allen. “The biggest challenge for new technology is adoption. We want to keep it familiar, like the things people use at home, so they’ll know how to use it at work.” 

That can mean empowering your company to turn existing TV screens into multi-touch screens using Displax film – a capacitive-touch technology. Or embedding smart speakers throughout your office. 

The team is always looking for ways to use technology in creative and unexpected ways. Like, replacing a static anatomy poster with an interactive touch screen that changes and adapts to the situation at hand. 

Millennials demand offices with flexible and functional design that inspires. For us, that demand is fundamental to the way we do things. 

Turn a table into a touch screen


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