Over the last few years, much has been made of the property industry’s need to adapt to millennials. Whether by prioritising high-quality facilities or introducing hot-desking and breakout spaces, today’s office buildings increasingly cater to those born between 1981 and 1995.
But today’s workplaces must stand the test of time. By looking at the priorities of future workers, we can ensure developments are flexible enough to accommodate them.
Generation Z will be the next age group to enter the workplace. Research into Generation Z – loosely, those born from 1995 to 2010 – reveals what this group will expect from their offices.
The blurring of online and reality
True digital natives, Generation Z have been exposed to the internet, social media, and mobile technology from their earliest years. For this generation, digital networks have broken down the geographic barriers that once defined community, allowing people from different locations and backgrounds to connect, cheaply and conveniently. Consequently, Gen Z make fewer distinctions between the physical and online worlds, and regularly move between different groups.
In fact, recent research from McKinsey found that 66% of Generation Zers believe communities are formed on common interests, rather than economic backgrounds or educational levels. This percentage is, according to McKinsey, far higher for Generation Z than for millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers. Equally, 52% of Gen Zers think it is natural for every individual to belong to different groups.
Community has been a key concept in the business world for years: people have always traded with, learnt from and collaborated with people they know. But community, and access to different communities, will be a workplace priority for Generation Z. So, how can the office buildings of today cater to the workers of tomorrow?
The enduring need for face-to-face interaction
To meet the needs of ‘communaholic’ Generation Z workers, modern workplaces must provide ample space for social interaction. While Generation Z has grown up in an age of pervasive technology, this generation also understands the value of human connection. Research from Accenture found that 31% of Generation Zers preferred face-to-face interactions with colleagues; meanwhile, web communication tools came a distant second, with just 21%.
Furthermore, whilst advances in technology increasingly give workers the freedom to work remotely, co-working space continues to grow in popularity, demonstrating the appeal of human interaction in the workplace. To cater for this, architects and property developers must focus on creating social spaces that support the establishment of workplace community. For example, at The Future Works in Slough, a 3,175 sq ft shared terrace provides space for working outside and communal activities, such as exercise classes, or just grabbing a drink after work for team bonding.
Moreover, office buildings can no longer afford to cater to just one type or size of business. Generation Z hops from one type of community to another, belonging to different groups, with varied interests. Their workplace will need to reflect this radically inclusive attitude, offering flexible space that can be manipulated to suit the needs and ideas of a range of different businesses.
For instance, last year, we worked with office provider, Orega, to reconfigure the ground floor of The Colmore Building in Birmingham to encompass a new co-working facility, rearranging the building’s café and reception area to create a welcoming space for all the users of the building, as well as new companies and start-ups.
If workplaces are to cater to multiple generations, buildings need to be more than just a place to do business. Creating space for community must be a priority for developers and architects looking to meet the needs of Generation Z, who – despite being digital natives – value personal relationships over digital communication.