According to the Pew Research Center, millennials comprise 35% of the American workforce, which makes them the largest generation in today’s labor force. This age group––those born between 1981 to 1996––is one of the most massive and most influential in society, and it’s critical to pay attention to their needs. This is especially true for the workplace since millennials make up such a large portion.
One of the best ways to meet millennial workers’ needs is through workplace design. Millennials tend to gravitate toward certain types of architecture and have specific needs when it comes to the spaces they work in. By considering these preferences when designing a workplace, you’ll ensure that millennials will love the space. Read on to find out what millennials love in architecture.
Millennials champion sustainability in all areas of their lives. In a 2015 report by Nielsen, 73% of millennials surveyed said they were willing to pay more for sustainable products. This preference crosses over into the workplace as well. According to the 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study, 75% said they would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. Moreover, 83% said that they would be “more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues.” Since millennials prioritize environmental responsibility so highly, they will be more attracted to businesses that use sustainable design.
There are many ways sustainable design can be implemented into the workplace. Many designers use green building materials as a way of enhancing sustainability. Moreover, sustainable building standards like LEED and Living Building Challenge reward the use of green building materials. These materials are also a great option because they provide a visual signal of sustainability, which can greatly affect how millennials perceive their surroundings. If they see lots of reclaimed wood and other sustainable materials, they’ll be more cognizant of the sustainability that went into the design.
The contemporary office is undergoing a design revolution, and millennials are helping to make that happen. Stuffy, closed-off offices are out, and nature-inspired workspaces are in. Given that millennials champion sustainability, it makes perfect sense that they similarly love biophilic design. Being surrounded by natural elements creates a hospitality-like experience that helps offices feel more like cafes, and for many millennial workers, this makes for an ideal environment.
Biophilic design aims to connect occupants to nature and blur the line between the indoors and outdoors. This type of design is especially popular in offices as it increases worker productivity and performance. It’s common to find large windows with views of nature, greenery of all sorts, and natural materials like reclaimed wood. Some offices even include water installations or eye-catching living walls. Whatever the chosen design elements are even a little goes a long way. An addition of a few plants or a bit of reclaimed wood can help workers feel rejuvenated and motivated.
Often, biophilic offices will incorporate other types of design (such as flexible design) to create workspaces that align with the needs and wants of millennials. Biophilic design has grown to be one of the most important approaches in Architecture & Design, and it’s only becoming more popular. Biophilia and sustainability go hand in hand, and millennials in particular feel inspired and refreshed when working in these nature-centric spaces.
Millennials are highly mobile and prefer flexible design to static design. This is especially true when it comes to the workplace. The traditional cubicle layout isn’t conducive to most millennials’ work styles, and modular office schemes are more popular than ever before. As a result, businesses are turning to flexible design to improve worker satisfaction, a trend that’s creating noticeable benefits. Rick D’Amato, a Principal of Architecture at LPA Inc., pointed out that “employee costs are the largest expense for any company, so making staff comfortable benefits the bottom line.”
Flexible design allows millennials to configure their surroundings to meet their needs. In the workplace, this means allowing any type of work anywhere within an office space. A great example is the Vector Firestarter designed by Heller. The Firestarter boasts a completely flexible and modular design with sliding walls, movable furniture, and “plug and play ready desks” that allow workers to set up shop anywhere at a moment’s notice. According to Heller, the office’s design can cater to everything “from big open space communication to small sized introverted working teams,” allowing for each employee, whether working solo or in a group of any size, to make the most of the space.
It’s not a surprise that millennials love and rely on technology, and this penchant naturally extends to design. Having ample and nearby access to technology helps millennials increase productivity and enhance their workflow. Designers are integrating technology more holistically into the environment with results that feel more natural and balanced.
Uber’s San Francisco HQ is a beautiful example of a tech-centric office. Designed by Studio O+A, the sleek, stylish office features a head-turning wall of touchscreens that displays the locations of Uber cars around the world. Smaller displays and workstations are spread throughout the campus, allowing workers to easily connect when they need to.
From Interior Design: Uber’s San Francisco office features an impressive touchscreen wall
However, too much technology can create a sterile feel, thus it’s important to create a welcoming environment when using lots of technology. To achieve this, many architects implement biophilic design to balance high-tech spaces with natural design elements. Twitter’s Boston office (pictured below) implements living walls, natural light, and plenty of wood, creating a biophilic counterpoint that helps workers to be more productive. It also gives workers a respite from being “always on,” providing opportunities to connect with nature./h
From Columbia Construction Company: Twitter’s Boston offices use biophilic design to offset the high amount of technology
Millennial workers carry with them a unique set of needs and wants, and design is the perfect arena to meet these needs. Since millennials make up the largest age group of the workforce, it’s critical to build with their preferences in mind. As more millennials enter the labor force, they’ll be able to step into offices that they love, and as a result, they’ll work better and contribute more.