Embrace Experience Over Stuff
Even in terms of their spending habits, millennials opt to invest in experiences, such as travel or concerts, instead of consumer goods like cars or stereo systems. Consistent with that trend, they also prize overall workplace experience over trendy amenities. In response to this, office designers are increasingly shifting towards human-focused design, an approach that emphasizes social connection, creativity, and collaboration and worker happiness.
Organizations that excel at creating meaningful experiences through office design focus on 4 key areas: formal collaboration, informal social connection, employee wellness and flexibility/choice.
For many organizations, creating formal spaces, such as meeting rooms that successfully enable and support meaningful collaboration can feel a lot like capturing lighting in a bottle. In fact, according to a 2013 Knoll study, only 14% of office workers describe their collaborative spaces as “above average” while the vast majority rated the effectiveness of the spaces to support high value interactions as average or below.
Organizations that succeed in this area have moved away from the traditional one size fits all approach. Instead they’re creating “specialty spaces” that are designed and equipped to support specific, collaboration-based activities such as brainstorming, video conferencing and training. Both the furniture and the tech included are highly adaptable and leverage plug & play solutions to ensure they’re easy to set up and easy to use.
BBVA Madrid HQ, image sourced from https://www.som.com/projects/bbva_madrid_headquarters__interiors
Spaces for Social Connection
Leading-edge companies also understand that oftentimes the most meaningful interactions arise in informal setting such as waiting in line for a coffee or over lunch in the break room. With this in mind, organizations are creating spaces specifically designed to spark ad-hoc interactions and conversations. For example, Salesforce has installed a Social Lounge on every floor of its San Francisco HQ. Every Social Lounge includes a feature wall designed by artist Shinji Murakami, a large kitchen island, snacks, natural light and stunning views. In addition, all Salesforce buildings include an “Ohana Floor” that’s open to the public and includes a barista bar, exhibition kitchen and event space.
One of the biggest changes millennials have brought to the workplace is a greater emphasis on work/life balance and workplace wellness. Ergonomic furniture, natural lighting & nature-inspired design are a must for attracting millennials. Features such as biophilia, meditation/relaxation rooms and outdoor spaces have also been proven to not only attract millennials, but boost productivity and engagement across the workforce.
Flexibility & Choice
Millennials want to be able to work anywhere, anytime and, given our modern technological capabilities, companies have no excuse for not accommodating. Leading-edge work environments are not only fully connected from meeting rooms, to lounges, to hallways, but also provide employee with ample choice. Activity-Based Working (ABW) is one way of accomplishing this.
ABW rejects the notion that employees should “own” their own workspace and does away with traditional assigned workstations. Instead, employees can choose between a variety of work areas designed to support specific tasks and/or working style. ABW avoids many of the pitfalls of the open office layout by balancing spaces for collaboration and social interaction with spaces designed for privacy and quiet concentration. For example, if an employee needs to conduct a sensitive or confidential phone call with a client, they can book a private room. Whereas if an employee wants to host a brainstorm meeting, they could book a space specifically designed for group discussion and project planning.
In addition to giving employees more control over how and where they work, ABW can also reduce overhead costs and even reduce a company’s carbon footprint by helping organizations more efficiently utilize office space. For example, British utilities company National Grid reduced operational costs by $11.43-14.29 million and increased productivity by 8% by implementing activity-based working. AECOM, who's SVP, Corporate Workplace - Practice Director, Sandra Paret, will be presenting at Future Offices Spring, was able to reduce its real estate from print from 16 million sq ft to 11 million.