Catering for millennials in the workplace

What is a millennial? Commonly defined as a person who was born between 1980 and 2000, the term “millennial” is at its heart a generational marker. There is another side to it, though, one where the phrase broadly encompasses a mark of behaviour. At least it has become common place to identify certain behavioural traits when referring to millennials.

Unfortunately, not all characteristics associated with this generation are perceived in a positive light. Described aptly by Chelsea Krost, 24, co-founder of MPulse a Millennial-focused marketing agency from Forbes article “Is Millennial a dirty word?” written by Samantha Sharf, the word millennial has previously perceived connotations:

“To set the record straight the word Millennial is NOT a dirty word. Unfortunately, the Millennial Generation has been labelled with stereotypes like lazy, entitled, and narcissistic, which has created confusion and frustration amongst many Millennials and generations prior. This generation is often misunderstood and the ‘Millennial Hustlers’ of today don’t always get the recognition or credibility they deserve because we tend to fixate more on the negative than the positive about this demographic of people. Millennials are a generation unlike any before and we are pioneering new methods in the workplace, technology and ways of communicating that will have a great impact on our near future. It is crazy to me to think that we can define 80 million people with three negative stereotypes. Instead, I believe many Millennials are entrepreneurial, innovative, liberal and charitable.”

However, there is a common thread that is definitely associated with this generation and that is that they are redefining the workspace. Millennials are no longer happy with the typical nine-to-five day. To many it is regarded as an outdated notion, and that the best delivery of services no longer come from working in your typical office space environment. Instead, flexibility, the room to grow and engage with others in the workspace and the use of technology slowly become the prime factors when deciding where to work and who to work for.

Responding to a US survey by Steelcase, when asked to select two words to describe their ideal workplace, millennials chose “Active” (62%) and “Flexible” (54%), while Gen-Xers chose: “Fun” (56%) and “Creative”, and baby boomers selected: “Spacious/Inspiring (57%) and “Active” (53%). Peter Townshend, Managing Director of workspace researchers, Know More, says that the situation is very much the same in South Africa: “The call for flexible, active workspaces is high,” he explains. “Yes, this call comes mostly from millennials, though we are seeing all age sectors desiring, especially, more flexible workspaces that provide them with specific areas to do specific tasks. Millennial are tech-savvy, innovative and motivated and their way of working is person-centred, not place specific and because of this, we need to rethink how we see workspaces that enhance productivity. Giving a millennial a desk is the worst thing you can do – they want to sit with their entire team in highly collaborative areas, and be able to come and go as they please … especially when they need to concentrate and focus. From all the observations that we have made on South African millennials when it comes to designing workspaces to enhance their work styles, one word comes to mind: choice. Give them choices and watch them grow – Peter Townshend, Managing Director, Know More.

It is worth keeping in mind that you aren’t only building a workspace that represents the brand, but also a space for the people who work there. Companies, such as Giant Leap, know that when it comes to the office, not everyone prefers the typical desk and chair set-up, but rather open workspaces which allow for collaboration and retreat rooms for quiet time.

Integrating technology into the workspace is important. With the millennial generation being constantly online, and using technology both as a medium to increase productivity and enhance one’s skill set, it’s no longer a surprise that the working environment should be technological friendly.

This means creating integrated technological workspaces. Rooms where one can comfortably have a skype call. Office spaces that make sure connectivity is possible and that you don’t necessarily have to be at one specific station or desk to achieve this connectivity.

Giant Leap takes all of this into consideration when planning and creating a workspace. It’s no longer just about the architecture, the colour schemes, the beautifully crafted furniture or the eco-friendly materials but it’s also about the people. The roles they take on, the preferred environment, the way they engage with the space and ultimately how all of this can be used to enhance productivity.

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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