As Generation Z enters the workforce alongside Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials, there is a very wide range of what “normal” means when it comes to both collaborative technologies and workspaces. While some workers are accustomed to high-walled workstations and have “earned” that coveted spacious corner office with a view, the newest generation opts for open-style bench seating, coffee shops or even working from home. Bonus points for bean bag chairs in the corner and nap stations!
These differences in preferences—and expectations—among the multiple generations working side-by-side requires a new flexibility in working environments and facilities to ensure a connected business.
Knowing your Audience
To accommodate these multiple generations in your office of the future, it’s firstly important to know your workforce and understand your demographics. If you’re a tech start up with average employee age of 28, workplace expectations and technology preferences will be very different than for a 100 year old law firm with an average employee age of 41 years old. You have to know the generation(s) of your company and plan accordingly. That may mean having traditional conference rooms available alongside the standing desks and floor seating.
It’s also important to set realistic expectations. Drastic changes do not happen quickly. Sometimes you need to take baby steps. You can’t necessarily go straight from traditional offices and workstations to polka dotted walls and bench seating without causing uproar. It’s a process that takes time, and you need to think about what you envision for your workplace of the future and have a clear plan about what it’s going to take to get there.
One challenge when it comes to flexible workplace planning is that in many companies, upper management and workplace decision makers have a different vision of the workplace of the future. Perhaps they came from a generation where it was commonplace that everyone be in the office five days a week, read news from the newspaper and utilize very little technology. But the world is changing. College grads read news from mobile phones and tablets, they don’t necessarily feel the need to talk to anyone face-to-face. Remote collaboration online through IM and text messaging is second nature. And when they do make a phone call, it’s normal to be able to see the person on the other end via video. It’s important to be aware of these differences and connect the dots between these two different visions of “normal” so that both generations can be productive and comfortable with the future of work.
Opportunity to Invest in your most Important Asset: Employees
With challenge also comes opportunity. The number one cost to a company is people. The number two cost was traditionally real estate, but over the past several years that has been changing. With a growing remote workforce, and more offices offering bench style-open plan workstations that take up less space, real estate needs are being greatly reduced. The money saved in real estate can be re-invested back into employees. For example, instead of spending the money to give everyone an 8x8 workstation, the current trend is moving towards providing employees additional equipment to be able to do their job more effectively and be more productive. That may mean giving each employee three computer monitors, something that would have been unheard of years ago. Investing in employees to improve digital collaboration is something that can be appreciated by anyone—regardless of generation!
When it comes down to it, if you want workplace revolution you need to know your workforce and know your collaboration goals. Know what makes employees productive, and make changes accordingly. You may have to go through a bit of trial and error to get it right, but keep your eye on the prize and you will get there.