Will Gen Z Have the Last Word in Office Design?

Last week, we took a look at some of the layout, technology, and furniture features that Millennials expect in the workplace. They’ll be the dominant demographic for quite some time. However, Gen Z is already jockeying for position in the workforce. In another 15-20 years, their voice will have a great deal of impact on office design. If you are doing long term office space planning, you might want to look ahead and anticipate what this youngest generation of workers wants.

Gen Y Loves Ambiguity

According to Haworth strategist Dr. Michael O’Neill, the workplace is already shifting to take the tastes of Generation Y into account. These young people crave social connection, collaboration, and choice. The boundaries between work and life blur as workspaces develop that look nothing like traditional cubicles. Instead, they resemble a lounge, a café, or even a garden. People aren’t supposed to know the precise purpose of each space—it’s all open for interpretation. This takes the flexibility desired by Gen X a step beyond facilitation into complete freedom.

Gen Z Wants More Clarity

O’Neill suggests that this free-for-all is going to shift when Generation Z reaches the workforce in meaningful numbers by 2020. He has some interesting ideas about why this is so (it may have to do with being raised by Gen X parents), but the impact on the office could be significant. Instead of thriving on chaos, they may want spaces that are clearly defined. When they show up at work, seeing a layout that makes it easy to understand what type of activity takes place in each area may help them be most productive. Having choices will still be important, but ‘legibility’ of space (O’Neill’s term) could prove essential.

How Is Planning Possible?

With so much uncertainty and speculation, is it really possible to make long term plans for the office? According to workplace design expert Despina Katsikakis, there is a way to future proof your workplace. She takes the view that adaptability will need to be designed and built at the overall facility level and the office level.

In her ideal scenario, “Space could be adapted for business shifts in ‘real-time’ and be continually re-aligned with core business objectives.” She sees workspace as being event driven, with a high level of dynamism and a focus on user choice and control. Generation Z won’t be the last generation to want to work in new ways. In the end, having the agility to shift with the trends (rather than finding one perfect layout), is the key. Let The Office Planning Group help you envision the most flexible way to use your space now and for the future.

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