Different Generations Require Different Office Design

August 21, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Workplace expectations differ among generations of workers, with some requiring a different office environment than others, according to a recent evaluation of workspace needs.

According to office furniture maker Allsteel Inc, some baby boomers prefer quiet areas such as in a private office that convey their rise through the organizational ranks, while younger Gen Y workers prefer collaborative areas that allow them to use their social networking skills and provide flexibility about when and where they work.

“Baby boomers still dominate the workforce. Some of them are used to working overtime, expecting office hierarchy and paying your dues,” said Kelly Sterk, Allsteel Workplace Research Manager, in the press release. “Younger workers often set a higher priority on the latest technology combined with more flexibility and autonomy and the freedom to work when and where it suits them.”

Economic necessity, better health and the fact that there are fewer, younger workers to immediately replace them will likely keep many baby boomers working well past the time their parents retired, according to Allsteel, meaning that office design must be made to fit broad range of generations.

According to Allsteel, an office space will need to take into consideration conflicting needs that arise for different generations:

  • Large offices and physical markers of individual success vs. collaborative space and the latest technology;
  • “I work hard, I win” attitude vs. a distinct balance between personal rewards and group benefits;
  • In-office status indicators like leather upholstery and wood case goods vs. an open plan, light-scale mobile furniture, natural light and Wi-Fi;
  • Face-to-face communication vs. email and instant messaging; and
  • Workstation size, lighting, temperature and sufficient storage vs. more flexibility, autonomy and socialization.