Digital Systems Blog

Millennials - a Driving Force Behind Workspace Transformation

623115024_Group of young business professionals having a meeting-1.jpgHere at OSRAM we are constantly reading industry research and articles about the changing workforce and its resulting impact on commercial office space. We want to share with you some of the pieces we found to be most interesting on this evolving workforce.

Since millennials are now the bulk of the U.S. population and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020 will make up 50% of the U.S. workforce, we will first take a look at this formidable generation. We hear a lot about their love of iPhones, search for purpose, environmentalism and focus on health but how does all this transcend to what they seek in a workspace?

Millennials are leading the charge in workspace transformation - affecting every aspect of commercial office space – from where corporations actually locate their buildings to the smallest details of what is being served in the cafeteria. 

Prefer Toiling in Urban Environments

This generation has rejected the conventional suburban corporate campus in favor of working in the city. This is one of the key reasons behind GE’s recent move from Connecticut to the Seaport district of Boston and Amazon’s plan to open a second headquarters in a major city. A Yahoo piece One way millennials are having a big impact on big companies, explains the phenomenon in this way, “Today, millennials are saying, ‘No, I want to be in an urban environment. I want to be able to get a latte. I want to be able to ride my bike. I want to be able to work in a place that much more open floor plan and sort of cooler feel.’ And so you’re seeing the companies react because they’re fighting for talent.” 

Technology Natives

These urban lovers are the most technology savvy generation and this influences how they work and what they expect at work. Millennials are the first generation to have a better grasp of business technology tools than their predecessors.  A Wired story The Rise of the Millennial Workforce, describes millennials and their relationship with technology. “This new wave of people coming through office doors near you are not just tech literate, but accustomed to being connected anywhere, at any time. They’re a generation that can’t recall life before the Internet, they’ve always had a cell phone, they share their photos via Instagram and communicate with friends and family via Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to the rise of mobile, cloud and social, millennials are used to flexibility, openness and instantly connecting with people regardless of their location. What they’re not used to are constraints and being restricted by an IT department when it comes to using technology.”

A PwC worldwide survey of recent college graduates reports that "Millennials have specific expectations about how technology is used in the workplace. Millennials expect the technologies that empower their normal lives to also drive communication in the workplace. 59% said that an employer's provision of state-of-the-art technology was important to them when considering a job."

Jennifer Deal, the author of How to Keep Millennials Happy, explains the millennial technology bond as follows, "Millennials are comfortable with technology. They have grown up with it and it has woven into their friendships and everyday activities. Millennials love technology at work because it reduces drudgery and saves them time. 

Communication, Community, and Collaboration 

 Interestingly, these technology natives also believe engaging with people directly, community, open communication and collaboration are all vital, Deal says, "But just because they spend so much time attached to one tech toy or another, that doesn't mean people aren't essential. In fact, feeling like they have a community at work is a determining factor in Millennials' organization commitment, job satisfaction, engagement and retention." And a Bentley University survey report, The Millennial Mind Goes to Work, found that 51% of millennials would rather communication with a colleague in person. 

A recent survey conducted by 15Five, found that out of 1,000 full-time employees across the U.S., 81% would rather join a company that values “open communication” than one that offers perks such as top health plans, free food and gym memberships.

Research from Deloitte on millennials tells us that “One of the cultural elements that matter most to millennials is the ability to collaborate openly, using tools that allow them to gain visibility with others, exchange ideas, and innovate solutions.”

Importance of Flexibility

Flexibility is important to millennials. They crave the flexibility to choose when they start and finish their workday, and where and how they work. The Deloitte Annual Millennial Survey reports that “Millennials appear to want the best of both worlds—freelance flexibility with full-time stability. Employers are increasingly offering flexible working arrangements while respondents believe such flexibility improves things for everybody. It also encourages greater levels of accountability—which they want—and their proven ability to assume accountability is leading to greater opportunities.”  The survey from Bentley University reported 77% of millennials believe more flexible hours would make them more productive.  

Health, Wellness and Productivity

Millennials are known for their obsession with health and wellness.  They exercise more, smoke less, and eat healthier than previous generations.  As employees seek to attract and retain millennials a green healthy workspace can aid in recruiting efforts.  Many forward thinking companies are doing just that. For instance, GoPro corporate offices in Carlsbad, CA have an in-house yoga studio and at green building firm Verdani Partners, a cook prepares organic, family-style lunches for employees.  Forerunner Google has a variety of innovative healthy perks for its young employees, including climbing walls, swimming pools, beach volleyball courts and soundproofed sleep pods.  Furthermore, according to research from University of California, Los Angeles healthy employees are more productive employees. 

Sense of Purpose to Make the World a Better Place

An acknowledged trait of millennials is their concern for the environment and for making the world a better place.  The Bentley University survey also reported that millennials see an ethical company as one that will take care of the environment, its community and its employees. 

In Leigh Stringer’s book The Green Workplace, she explains, “Recent college graduates have embraced sustainable principles and believe that every aspect of their lives, including their job, should leave a minimal environmental footprint.”

Millennials want to feel they have purpose in their employment.  In a Gallup study, 71% of millennial respondents who strongly agreed that they knew what their organization stood for and what made it different from its competitors, said they planned to be with their company for at least a year.  A Deloitte study echoed that reporting that among those who said they would stay with their employer for more than five years, 88% said they felt a sense of purpose.  

Effect on the Workspace

Notable issues that are important to millennials that influence workspace design include technology, communication, flexibility, health and sense of purpose.  Keeping these top of mind when creating workspace for today’s employees will be mandatory to attract and retain talent.  Workspaces designers should aim to incorporate state of the art technology that enables a flexible, healthy work environment and allows for communication and collaboration across an organization while being gentle on the environment.

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Topics: Trends