Workplace Design Trends: Make Way For Millennials

Millennials thrive on competitive collaboration. With this in mind, companies have redesigned their spaces with open, transparent working environments.

By Robert Barrett

Millennials are causing quite the stir in the workforce. Instead of entering their places of employment molded and pruned to adapt to the existing office environments and employer/employee dynamics, they often come in making demands of their new bosses.

Workplace Design
Photo: Barrett Properties

What’s even more surprising is the reaction to these newcomers: Companies are listening to them, and many are jumping through hoops to meet their demands. The truth can no longer be denied: Millennials, sometimes called Generation Y, are changing the workplace by bringing in technology, transforming the hours we spend on the job, and how we go about achieving our goals at work.

If that isn’t challenging enough, they want to change up the way the office looks. They’re not satisfied with the way the traditional office has looked for the last 40 years, they want a workplace make-over.

Changing Workplace Design

Millennials make up about 40 percent of the workforce in the U.S., and it is estimated that they will account for 75 percent by 2025. Whereas the older generation typically adapted to their workplace, Millennials take a different approach: They expect the workplace to adapt – physically, in many cases – to meet their preferences.

Workplace Design
Credit: Digital Vision

In trying to attract Millennial workers, companies have listened to their preferences and made many of the requested changes. Millennials thrive on competitive collaboration. With this in mind, companies have redesigned their spaces with open, transparent working environments where employees are able to observe their colleagues’ activities — including who’s stepping up their game and out-performing them.

In an office designed for Millennials, you may see traditional desks next to standing desks. There may be quiet areas and walking workstations.

Say Goodbye To Cubicles

The office cubicle is being thrown to the curb. The Millennials’ approach to work is no longer about working to live, but on living to work. The traditional 9-to-5 workday is giving way to the freelance worker and telecommuting employees. Conference calls are morphing into face time on Skype.

Workplace Design
Photo: Barrett Properties

Conference rooms have given way to co-working spaces. These open areas may have a sofa pit with moveable tables and a full cappuccino/latte counter in the back. Computers in the form of laptops and tablets may be found scattered around the tables. Workers will be found milling around, sharing ideas, and writing on walls covered with dry-erase boards.

A co-working space may feature an assortment of high-end furnishings and an upscale lighting system. Rich, lavish finishes might be found on the wood products, a collection of contemporary art may be spread around the room, and there might even be a fully stocked liquor cabinet.

Millennials at work are often found hanging out talking, arguing, brainstorming, kicking around ideas and scenarios, and even throwing a baseball around. Their sneakers and jeans are a sharp contrast to the lush furnishings. They look like nothing’s getting done but, at the end of the day, you’ll find the amount of work actually accomplished is often phenomenal.

Smaller Personal Space

With Millennials, more and more work is accomplished in a group setting than by the solitary worker sitting in an office. As a result, personal workspaces are shrinking, while areas for group working are increasing and the décor improving.

Flat-screen computer monitors allow for a smaller footprint for electronics per workstation. With the installation of Wi-Fi and investing in Bluetooth technology, sitting at a desk tied to a keyboard and a landline phone is obsolete. Provide employees with tablets and smartphones, and your workforce can produce a lot of work from anywhere.

With the amount of square footage per desk shrinking, designers are incorporating ideas such as desk sharing, free desking, and benching. With the mobility inherent in today’s technology, an employee can sit down anywhere and get work done. The need for assigned workspaces is fading, with unassigned areas that offer optional visual or acoustical privacy in spots, while leaving other areas open for group work sessions.

Furniture in these open workspaces can range from a casual lounge-type seating with integrated work surfaces, or a small table or two with accompanying chairs. These spaces are especially popular when there is access to daylight and writable walls.

Workstations Out, Workplaces In

The design of a modern workplace incorporates one or more areas for communal activities. There should also be at least one visually and acoustically private meeting room. As one strolls through the working place, there should be scattered open break areas with welcoming, comfortable furnishings as well as casual seating groups that invite you to sit and have a cup of coffee for a while.

The individual’s workstation is now the Millennial’s workplace. The common areas of the office have become the social hubs of the workplace. The most sought-after workplaces have access to outdoor views with a design that incorporates natural daylight. If there is outdoor access to a courtyard or similar setting, that’s even better.

Individual and group workplaces may have tables and chairs along with comfortable lounge furniture, including recliners. Bar-height tables with stools around a coffee service are popular, as are stools along a traditional bar that is fully stocked for cocktails. Wi-Fi is a must, along with semi-private booths where devices can be charged when needed. Writable surfaces and mobile dividers are always a plus. The key is creating space for co-workers to co-mingle to maximize productivity.

Workplace DesignFor more than 20 years, Robert Barrett has been recognized as a leader in the real estate industry. Under the tutelage of his father, Roy Barrett, he learned to specialize in finding undervalued assets, and his negotiating skills have led to many successful real estate acquisitions and developments. Barrett Properties currently owns over 100 properties including shopping centers, warehouses, apartments, condominiums, and storage facilities.