Is there a link between millennials, the digital workplace and office design?

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By far, our most popular tweet over the past 7 days has discussed how technology can improve workplace productivity. Interestingly, it also links to our other most popular tweets of the week, which focus on why companies are spending so much more on the digital workplace now compared to 10 years ago and how important a company’s culture is in office design. The common factor throughout is the millennial generation.

Whilst technology has progressed leaps and bounds over the recent years, that hasn’t always been so quickly reflected in the workplace, with many companies lagging behind when it comes to implementing state-of-the-art technology. We are seeing a shift in this trend though and companies embarking on an office move or refurbishment are investing far more heavily in creating a digital workplace.

“Today, technology (IT) and audio/visual requirements can exceed 25.0% of the total build-out cost compared to 7% ten years ago.” JLL

The main drivers for this increase in investment in a digital workplace are the tangible links to improved productivity and the increased demand for it by employees. How we use technology in our everyday life is impacting how we use technology at work: we expect the same mobile and seamless connectivity at work as we have in our everyday lives. This is more prevalent in millennials, who have not only grown up with technology at their fingertips but also desire transparency, collaboration and flexibility in their working lives.

“1 in 3 Millennials would prioritise device flexibility, social media freedom and work mobility over salary in accepting a job offer.” Kenan-Flalger Business School

So how does a company investing in an office move or refurbishment know what sort of environment to create and which technologies to adopt? Research is key. It’s important to fully understand the company’s business objectives in order to create a working environment that will support achieving of those objectives. It’s also important to understand the company’s culture, how employees work, communicate and collaborate. Identify what currently works and what needs improving, how employees wish they could work and what would help them to be more productive and effective in doing their jobs. This can be done by using a number of methods, such as observation, group sessions and one-to-one interviews. It’s important to speak directly with employees and not just the management or project teams so that a true picture of the company culture and working practices can be achieved.

At the same time, it’s important to fully understand how the office space is used and the employee experience within the space. Is it cumbersome, are there dead areas, do people congregate in certain spaces, are they struggling with using other spaces?

This research informs the layout and design of an office space that truly reflects how the business operates. A key element of this is specifying and recommending the right combination of technology and where it should be featured. It’s important that this is specified early in the design process. As the individual workspace and desk itself is becoming physically smaller, it’s offset with other working areas that are made available for the individual to use. So in effect every employee has a variety of work settings, such as quiet booths for 121s and meeting pods for 4-6 people to have huddles, that they can utilise throughout their working day. There’s much less call for individual offices or formal conference rooms for larger group meetings and more so for multi-functional spaces have been cleverly designed to offer flexibility for employees to adapt the space to suit their needs.

“64% of companies identify providing more mobility support to employees as a top priority.” Cisco

All of these spaces are carefully created with the employee and technology usage in mind, with different technology available in each space to facilitate the type of work that will be carried out there. What is essential throughout is that no matter where or how an employee chooses to work they have seamless and automatic wireless connection and can pick up where they left off in another working area, whether that’s in the same building or even from multiple locations.

As millennials are likely to switch jobs more frequently, providing a flexible, inspiring and digital workplace is more likely to attract and retain this generation. The final and desired outcome is that employee satisfaction and productivity are improved and ultimately there’s a positive impact on business performance and results.

The inspiration for this post came from our top tweets this week:

Why companies spend 3X on tech than they did a decade ago by Tech Republic

Office design ideas: The ones that got away… by CMI Workplace

Open for Business: How office design mirrors a company’s culture by Utah Business

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Do millennials desire anything different from the workplace?

Technology is transforming the workplace in more ways than one

Office re-design is driven by desire to attract millennials

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