Office Locations

200 S. Wacker Drive
Suite 700
Chicago, IL 60606

6250 N. River Road
Suite 11-100
Rosemont, IL 60018

Third Quarter 2015

As large portions of the baby boomer workforce face retirement in the company years, employers are now forced to shift their focus toward the new millennial generation who possess a drastically different mindset, a mindset of which will be a catalyst for change. This change will not only impact a business’s approach to policies concerning employee engagement and retention, it will force a shift in the way employers utilize their office space to support the millennial workforce and their preferences. So what does this mean for you as an employer and how can you prepare for this transformation? Understanding how the millennial generation functions and operates will get you one step closer to aligning your real estate with your upcoming workforce needs.

Otherwise known as Gen‐Y, according to the United States Census Bureau (2015) it is estimated that the millennial population (those born between 1982 and 2000) represent over one quarter of the nation’s population totaling 83.1 million. Officially exceeding the baby boomer generation at 75.4 million, the millennials are now the largest and most diverse living generation in the US (U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation). With the first wave of members only in their early thirties and just at the beginning of their careers, this well‐educated, technology driven group of workers will impact the workforce and change the idea of what we consider today to be an effective office environment.

In order to understand the impact on office design, we first need to recognize the common traits and core values of a millennial mindset. This cohort grew up in a technology driven environment, with access to computers, digital content and virtual connectivity through social media from an early school age. The unparalleled advancement in technology during these years has led to this generation encouraging and valuing creativity and innovation as critical tools for success. In a survey conducted by Deloitte of over 8,000 millennials, the results found that 78% of respondents valued the level of innovation within a company when choosing employers, with the majority stating that their existing employer does not encourage creative thinking. Millennials place a large emphasis on teamwork and collaboration to solve problems and achieve common goals, unlike the baby boomer generation who traditionally were raised to work individually (The Wall Street Journal). Finally, this group values the importance of a work‐life balance and thus craves flexibility in both work schedules, benefit packages and the ability to work wherever and however at any time. As reported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, 3 out of 4 millennials state that a work‐life balance drives their career choices with 56% agreeing that when seeking employment, a quality benefits package greatly influences their ultimate choice of employer.

So how can you ensure your office design supports these contrasting characteristics of your emerging workforce to those of your existing? The concept of the shrinking office and decrease in allocation of square foot per person is applicable here as more employers move away from a traditional office floor plan with large executive private offices in prime window lined areas and high partitioned cube areas. Alternatively, an open floor plan incorporating ample ‘family room’ type collaboration space with an abundance of natural light throughout is of greater demand for millennials who value a variety of work surfaces and the ability to congregate and generate ideas in a team environment (Gensler). This not only fosters creativity and innovation, but in turn reduces overall real estate costs through a decrease in the total square footage required. Technological connectivity plays a large role in maximizing flexibility in the work environment. Jessie James from Whitney Architects (based in Oakbrook, IL) explains that “the hard line between the office and home has diminished as technology has allowed for immediate response to both work and personal matters. In turn, the home office has met its match ‐ the 'Office Home' ‐ a workplace inspired by residential design, encouraging well‐being, and fostering collaboration among the work family”. Whether it is in the break room, a group collaboration area, cozy reading nook or at home, millennials crave the ability to work when and however they choose. Creating flexibility in work schedules and surfaces (not just at your desk or workstation) through complete virtual connectivity will assist in establishing this ‘Office Home’ concept that supports the work‐life balance mindset and demands of the mobile millennial employee.

The importance in all of this from an employer’s perspective is to balance the expectation between the generational differences in your workforce and adjust to suit your individual business needs. A completely open plan layout with ample collaboration areas may not work for your business and it is important to seek employee engagement through the design process to ensure individual needs are recognized and accounted for. Keep in mind that you are planning an office for the workforce 10‐15 years in the future, not the workforce of today. The goal is to create a positive physical space that motivates individuals to succeed, which will in turn lead to collective success.

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Whether it is in the break room, a group collaboration area, cozy reading nook or at home, millennials crave the ability to work when and however they choose.

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6250 North River Road, Suite 11-100 Rosemont, IL 60018 United States | Tel: +1 847 698 8444