The Multi-Generational Office – A one size fits all approach fits no one well

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Did you know there are 4 distinct generations that can be found in today’s workplace?

  • Silents (Born between 1925 and 1946)
  • Baby Boomers (Born between 1946 and 1964)
  • Generation Xers (Born between 1965 and 1980)
  • Generation Ys or Millennials (born after 1980)

Office design for multiple generations is no simple task. Each generation has been associated with differing workplace characteristics. For instance when it comes to feedback, silent and boomers usually don’t appreciate it, while Generation Xers might say, “Sorry to interrupt but how am I doing?” The Generation Y or Millennials want feedback whenever it’s convenient for them and they want it at the push of a button!

When it comes to designing a workspace for multiple generations one issue that comes up is communication styles. Silents and Baby Boomers desire in person communication, Generation Xers want direct and immediate communication, and Generation Y or Millennials want communication in the form of email or texts.

Although Boomers want in person communication – this doesn’t mean they’re clamoring to sit in the middle of a cube farm or an open office layout. If anything, they want you to stop into their private office. There is still a great deal of prestige associated with having one.  Employers need to be mindful when deciding on a new layout or when moving into a new workplace that not everyone views open space layouts as energizing hives of communication and creativity.

Here are a few words to keep at hand when choosing who will sit where: Choice, Control and Personalization. All employees appreciate when an employer offers them a choice to control their workspace and allowing them to personalize it is icing on the cake. Ask anyone who has worked where there is a clean desk policy and whose desk assignment changed as often as the Bachelor’s feelings on a certain TV show.

Choice includes allowing employees to decide which workplace fits the task they are currently working on. If they need uninterrupted concentration, never allowing them to work anywhere except an open floor space is a recipe for distraction and delayed deadlines. Allowing your employees to retain some control over their space means that you don’t experiment with seating arrangements. Instead of playing musical chairs after the fact, spend more time figuring out where employees will work best, which plays back to choice. Ask them for their input so they retain some control in the decision.

If you don’t have the space for private offices or multi-purpose rooms for your employees, personalization is a must. Especially in an open floor plan office, it is one of the only ways employees maintain some choice and control over their space. Plants, knickknacks, artwork, children’s drawings, and distinct task lighting can go a long way when you can’t offer much in the way of privacy.

Finally, a concept that all generations can appreciate is a sense of community. You can see this in workplace designs that provide gathering places from cafés and lounges to on-site workout spaces, or bike storage, changing rooms and showers.

A multi-generational workplace is a reality employers are often slow to grasp. Be mindful of how different generations are used to communicating and how important privacy can be. If your space isn’t working, we can consult with you to come up with options on how best to arrange your space to address these concerns. Call Planning Interiors at 470.545.4906 today.

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