Creating the Millennial-Friendly Office
August 24, 2016

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Sure, salary is important – and it always will be. But today’s younger workers aren’t just looking for a paycheck. Millennials are increasingly looking for a combination of tangible and intangible factors when they choose where to contribute their labor and their talents. Aside from straight hourly wages and salary, these workers want a manageable work-life balance. They are willing to work a lot of hours and work very hard, but they want flexibility to integrate their work and family lives and their own personal development and wellness in their own way.  When asking employees to spend much of their waking hours in an office, there are some relatively low-cost ways to make it place they enjoy being in as well as make it a more productive place to work.  Here are some ways employers can create the right office environment for these up and coming workers without breaking the bank.

  • Install one or more standing or treadmill desks.  If you have workers that have work that’s compatible with using a standing or treadmill desk, supporting their wellness in this way will not only benefit your workers who use them, but you will benefit from their increased alertness and productivity. You’ll also benefit because fit, active employees will help attract other young, fit and active employees like them.  And that’s good for any organization.
  • Consider an open floor plan.

“Hierarchy, tenure, and seniority are no longer the key factors in design, and flexible work zones are displacing high, opaque walls, says Karen Thomas, CID, LEED AP BD+C, a Principal of architecture firm LPA Inc. (www.lpainc.com). The firm’s user surveys show that employees are more productive when given a variety of places in which to work. “Employee costs are the largest expense for any company, so making staff comfortable benefits the bottom line,” says Rick D’Amato, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, another LPA Principal.”

  • Include “war rooms” where workers can bring their laptops and share a table and collaborate – and make some noise without disrupting coworkers doing work that requires more focused and solitary attention. One best practice: Employers are discovering they need to make ‘quiet’ spaces available in the office for employees to focus on this time of work, as well as louder spaces (within reason) for workers to collaborate in open, energetic exchanges.
  • Think about ‘hoteling.’ That is, rather than having an employee take the same desk every day, consider allowing for your small teams to form and sit together as needed, depending on the project at hand. Provide ‘huddle rooms’ and other collaborative spaces for this purpose.
  • Provide small, mobile, rolling desks instead of or in conjunction with traditional workstations. This also supports the formation of small, nimble ad hoc “teams” based on specific projects and facilitates collaboration.
  • Put a snack bar on one of those rolling desks, and wheel it around the office at 3pm each day. Chances are your workstation folks are getting pretty sleepy by then.
  • Schedule a quick round of office badminton, foosball, calisthenics, or whatever works for your space around this time of day. Get people on their feet. The 3pm time slot is the ‘Seventh Inning Stretch’ of the 9 to 5 workspace.
  • Lower or eliminate workstation walls to eliminate the ‘cube farm’ feel.
  • Consider a fitness/workout area in the workplace, or outside it.
  • Provide flexible work arrangements to allow both men and women to spend more time with families. For example, both Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Deloit provide programs that allow their full-time workers to scale back hours for a few years – for example, while they have small children at home – and then go back to full-time work without loss of seniority or promotability. At least, in theory. 
  • Take a look at your office acoustics. If workers are distracted by conversation, adding some noise buffering or even a white noise generator can help to minimize these distractors and help workers focus.