Transforming Office Environments – With Generation Y

by Tania Wannenburg
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The way people work is changing fast and this can be attributed to the arrival of Generation Y in the workplace.

We are facing a huge generational shift as many Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are currently retiring, making way for Generation Y (born around 1977 to the 1990s).

Also known as the Millennials, they are the fastest-growing sector of the workforce and are described as technologically savvy, collaborative and socially connected.

This younger talent pool thrives in an atmosphere that is conducive to teamwork. They spend more time collaborating in technologically supported environments and less time working at independent workstations or offices.

It is predicted that temporary workstations will become the norm with Gen Y, as many will be working online from anywhere in the country or even the world. This will result in a reduction in office space.

These ‘digital natives’ have a desire for flexibility and have a preference for speed and efficiency in their jobs. They also value quality of life, meaningful work and the opportunity for learning and promotion, more than they value remuneration.

Gen Y workers will become an integral part of the business environment and companies will need to adapt to their expectations and attract and retain them by reshaping and revolutionising the workplace.

The increased focus on staff retention demands comfortable, ergonomically designed workspaces that can be customised to inspire and stimulate, with functional zones that merge seamlessly into each other, creating meeting spaces, private workspaces and open spaces conducive to creativity and innovation.

For this reason The Creative Counsel, a below-the-line marketing agency, recently contracted Angel Shack to furnish their new head offices in Johannesburg.

“Our biggest asset as a business is our staff and therefore it is vital that they are comfortable and happy and able to give of their best at work,” says Ran Neu-Ner, the joint chief executive. “Our choice of Angel Shack for the interiors was based on their more than four decades of experience producing office furniture of the highest international standard.”

Modern workspaces that work for Gen Y Cubicles, partitions and walls will need to make way for offices that are open-plan and workspaces that are spatially efficient, multifunctional and user-friendly. Most of all, they must create a sense of place for the user.

The design needs to offer the configuration capabilities to seamlessly create larger or customised workstations for formal, informal and virtual collaboration. The same work zones need to provide a space for Gen Y to work alone, view presentations and use technology without disturbing others.

The latest furniture designs focus on combining personal territory in an open office where mobility, functionality and performance is encouraged, but co-worker interruptions and auditory and visual distractions do not impact on the worker’s ability to perform. Secluded, quiet areas are also being incorporated where employees can make private phone calls.

Also important to Gen Y are social responsibility and sustainability, which could translate into ‘green’ practices that are currently being incorporated in modern office design. Increasing environmental awareness and more legislation will see not only much greener buildings, but greener desks.

Already considerable time, effort and money are being invested to establish environmentally responsible manufacturing processes, ensuring all desks and accessories are produced with no volatile organic compounds so as to reduce indoor air pollution.

As more and more Gen Y-ers enter the workforce over the next few years, it’s expected that they will continue to change their work environments to suit themselves, and that the traditional workplace will eventually be left behind.

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