Contributor: Ryan Vetzel, Program Lead at SiteREADY
We’ve learned a lot from millennials about the 21st century workplace. Their perceived desire for a more collaborative work environment helped establish the open office—a concept that, while a bit contentious depending on who you ask, speaks to the importance of aesthetic and collaboration to their productivity. Workplace technology has enabled corporations to engage with their staff in ways we never thought possible, including telecommuting, working remotely and other flexible work arrangements.
As a new generation—generation Z—hits the workforce, we are now beginning to scratch the surface of what they value and expect in the modern workplace. Let’s take everything we know so far—what we’ve learned from previous generations and what we’re seeing in the field—and make a few predictions about the future of the Gen Z workspace.
The Answer Lies in the IoT
Sounds a bit cryptic, right? Well, that’s the thing about the Internet of Things—it’s inherently ambiguous. To sum it up, the IoT is basically the universe of objects or devices that are connected to the internet. It makes sense, then, that this universal connectivity will be a defining characteristic of our most connected generation yet—one that was born into the Google age, grew up texting, and has never known a world in which the Amazon was only a rainforest in South America.
Gen Z-ers are entering the workforce with an expectation of technology and access to information that previous generations simply didn’t have. Millennials came of age amid a time of rapid technological advancement, but as a generation that knew both the perils of dial-up and the joys of broadband, it’s almost as if they’re wired not to expect too much—and to be pleasantly surprised when things work as they should.
For Gen-Z, this expectation goes beyond the seamless connectivity of devices. As companies introduce advanced technology into the workplace, this generation is going to be more interested in what that technology can tell us, and how the data it yields can be used to create more efficient workflows.
The Open Office is (Probably) Here to Stay
Like it or not, the open floorplan doesn’t seem to be going anywhere just yet, but we do anticipate some modifications—fueled by technology, of course. Innovation in collaboration remains a key consideration among millennials, which we expect to continue into the next generation. But, we’re beginning to see more of a focus on communal areas.
One of the common gripes about the open office is that while it was designed to foster a more collaborative and productive work environment, newer research suggests it may actually accomplish quite the opposite. Thankfully, we don’t envision companies reverting back to the cubicle farms of the ‘80s and ‘90s, but rather, looking for more creative ways to promote communication and collaboration across teams.
From huddle spaces to breakrooms outfitted with AV technology, being able to hold an impromptu meeting, socialize with colleagues or even just take 10 minutes of me-time in a technology-enabled atmosphere is a virtue that we’ve seen significantly boost morale—and, in turn, productivity. Whether you’re looking for an efficient way to review a shared document or commiserate over the week’s hundredth printer malfunction with that most gratifying scene from Office Space, we’re anticipating technology in communal areas coming into play in some creative ways.
Aesthetic is Key
The millennial generation didn’t want big, boxy furniture, drab walls and grey Berber carpet—and neither does Generation Z. It makes sense: If you’re spending 40-plus hours a week at the office, it should conceivably be somewhere you enjoy (or at least don’t mind) hanging out. We’re seeing a lot of companies opt for a more industrial look and feel, in some cases even doing away with ceiling grids to create a more open, visually appealing environment—one that feels a little more like home and less like the office of the past.
More than just architecture, the 21st century office should be aesthetically appealing in all aspects. Humans, by nature, have a need to always be engaged, and that need has only grown stronger with the rise of technology, social media and the general influx of information constantly coming our way. In designing your workspace, picture an employee walking in on the first day or a candidate coming in to interview for the first time. From the art on the walls to your AV equipment and digital signage, your décor should reflect that this is a relatively cool place to work.
Bridging the Generational Gap
In today’s workforce, Gen Z-ers, millennials, Gen X-ers and baby boomers are finding themselves working in harmony, which means companies are tasked with finding ways to satisfy the varying preferences of each generation. Technology is meant to make life easier, which is a common ground that transcends age—and one we can all appreciate together.
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