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How to bring generations together through workplace design

Thought Leadership on Workspace Solutions presented by Benhar Office Interiors. 

Today, it isn’t unusual to have four generations working in an office. On occasion, that number could even rise to five or six generations in one office, and in the future it definitely will. In discussing workplace strategy and design, aligning how people work with the environment can be challenging with such varied types of workers to accommodate.

Notable generations impacting workplace design

Traditionalists: Born before 1945, these workers typically prefer private offices and working individually.

Baby Boomers: Accustomed to “conference rooms and cubicles,” boomers typically like working face-to-face, but with options for privacy and separate meeting areas.

Gen X: Typically between ages 30 and 45, these task-oriented workers want to get work done as quickly as possible, and as long as it doesn’t interfere with deadlines, are comfortable working remotely.

Millennials: As digital natives who are fluent in social media, these youngest professionals don’t think offices are at all necessary, see working remotely as the norm, and prefer entirely open spaces for wandering, collaborating and innovating.

Workplaces that work for everyone

This convergence of generations has far-reaching implications for employees and the organizations they serve. They’re also impacting how office spaces are organized, furnished and designed. While the values, work styles and communication patterns vary between these generations, when designing a work space, the best approach is to create human-centered environments that work in ways that are pertinent to all generations.

Herman Miller’s design research advises that the following approaches are well suited to specific generations, but also serve to meet the needs of the individuals in the workplace. They are:

Be authentic. Baby boomers put high value on keeping things real. Years of experience have honed their ability to discern the truth from an approximation of it. “Tell it like it is,” a mantra of the 60s and 70s, still applies.

Be creative. Gen Xers see themselves as the force behind the technological innovations that have transformed both the world and the world of work. Leery of the traditional and accepted, they’re inspired by originality, creativity and imagination.

Be connected. For all their ease with technology and the connections it enables, Millennials also seek the personal interaction and participation that face-to-face communication makes possible. They’re comfortable connecting both ways, even at the same time.”

Ultimately, functionality trumps generational differences. There are many ways to create appropriate settings for socialization, focus, collaboration and productivity that can serve to unite the varying work styles of these generations. Open-plan benching, huddle spaces and social areas with a variety of seating and technology access may be great ways to contribute to the space plan.

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