Millennials Are Changing Office Life. Are You Ready?


Higher salary, more vacation days, gym membership? Yeah, all those are nice, but Millennials, especially those working for startup companies, do not regard these as the pinnacle of their careers anymore, nor are they motivated by them. What the 20- and 30- somethings are most attracted to as they start seeking for work are companies that place emphasis on culture, and are ready to trade some of the once-praised employee benefits and perks for being a part of an innovative and vibrant work environment.

As a business owner, this isn’t a trend to ignore. Estimates indicate that Millennials are currently accounting for 36 percent of the entire US workforce. Over the next decade, the figure is expected to more than double to 75 percent of the global workforce. They are a generation even larger than Baby Boomers, and their desire to communicate and connect with others will most likely transform the workplace in radical ways. The shift from baby boomers to Gen Y will be massive, and experts believe it will be completed in less than eight years.

So how do workplaces need to change in order to accommodate and engage the new generation of employees? A new study conducted by Cornerstone OnDemand revealed what Gen Y seeks and how businesses can keep them happy and engaged. Here are some of the study’s highlights:

  • Although flexibility is one of their recurrent demands, young employees prefer in-person team work over working remotely. 60 percent of the respondents to the survey said they prefer in-person collaboration rather than via phone or videoconference.
  • Millennials are a tech-infused generation, but they’re not as addicted as they’ve been described so far. 66 percent would agree to wear gadgets that would help them in their work, while 34 percent would refuse to do so.
  • Surprisingly, Millennials have a tech limit as well: nearly 40 percent feel overwhelmed by the amount of technology they are constantly subjected to on the job, and 41 percent said they have been the victims of ‘information overload.’

Regarding the outline of the new business environment, Alison Maitland, co-author of “Future work: How business can adapt and thrive in the new world of business,” believes the open space setting will soon replace conventional offices. Cubicle walls will come down, making room for open floor plans specifically designed to ignite staff interaction and build culture. Furniture, technology, economics, everything is set to change in an age driven by communicative, tech-savvy people.

“It is the idea of work being an activity and not a place. That is more important, and it is already happening in companies like Unilever’s Hamburg office and Microsoft’s office in Amsterdam. The focus there is on collaboration and innovation, nobody has a permanent desk, and employees are encouraged to move around and work in a space that best suit their activity at any given time.”

Room for Change

Gen Y's Office Furniture

Of course, there won’t be strict guidelines to how the new office should look like to fit Gen Y’s preferences. The general direction designers and office furniture suppliers should head towards is a wider variety of settings and furniture pieces tailored to the needs of each company. Lounge furniture, open-meeting spaces, and modular workstations are invading the workspace right now, paving the way from the individual to the team. If the conventional office was a status marker and an iconic piece for baby boomers, Millennials are ready to trade it off for comfortable couches and areas where they can meet with colleagues in a casual setting.

To maintain their market advantage, companies must acknowledge the importance of adapting to Millennials’ desires and requests, setting up an environment that nurtures forward-thinking ideas and a problem-solving mindset. No doubt about it, the future of the world lies in the hands of Generation Y, and businesses must be receptive as workplace demographics change.

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About the Author Lynne Lemieux

Lynne Lemieux, Founder and President of Alliance Interiors Inc., has devoted more than 20 years of experience developing and implementing growth opportunities for some of Canada's leading office furniture dealers. Her ability to provide clients with inspiring and versatile interior solutions for both business and home office environments has garnered her title of Aboriginal Business Woman of the Year in the city of Toronto for 2012. In her spare time, Lynne takes an active interest in politics, public speaking, and philanthropy, but also enjoys gardening, interior decorating, cooking, yoga, and traveling.

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