Defined by smartphones and social media, Millennials have been of great interest to interior designers and architects for the last decade or so. They have paved the way for the transformation in office and commercial design as we know it. However, their time in the limelight is starting to give way to Generation Z (aka Gen Z) – those born between 1996 and 2010. There has been a recognizable shift away from relaxation pods and pool meeting tables once fêted for having the power to boost happiness, productivity and creativity. Offices are being reshaped into more aesthetically pleasing playgrounds for these upcoming entrepreneurs.
Gen Z employees are seeking more competitive salaries, leaders they can respect and more fluidity at the work place. Finding jobs that are personalized, facilitate their personal and professional growth and better mold their ambitions are other items that top their priority lists.
The technology savvy Gen Z are known to be ‘Thinker Techs’ or ‘Digital Natives’ meaning not only are they fascinated by technology but they take active steps away from traditional approaches and make their own mark using new technology and apps. As a result, designers and architects are having to redefine their approaches. For instance, any signs of the office cubical, once valued by Baby Boomers due to their demand for more privacy, hierarchy and workaholic nature, have been eliminated by most offices.
Increasingly, ‘loose’ or ‘flexible’ furniture is being specified due to its multi-functional attributes and ability to create the right balance between a personal, empowered environment and that collaborative, team environment required at work.
The E.O office in Dubai is a great example of a modern spatial approach to this type of adaptable space. The furniture gives employees the freedom to create secluded spaces when favored (generally by Baby Boomers) as well as a more common/shared spaces for Millennials and Gen Z.
I’ve noticed two key words that typically arise in the description of the recent evolution of workspace and office design are, ‘funky’ and ‘fun’.
These modern office spaces tend to celebrate both the nature of their industry and the persona of their employees through the use of color and ambience to enhance synergy in the work place. A combination of graphic artwork, creative lighting and brighter colors is repainting the face of the traditional office look. We’re seeing fewer dark and grey looking work places and more brightly colored ones with mood palettes that can generate different energy levels on demand (i.e. the space is capable of promoting various moods within the office depending on employees’ requirements).
The design industry has also witnessed a turn in the way we craft office space concepts. We’re moving away from replicating similar design approaches adopted by major corporations (e.g. Google, eBay, Amazon, etc.) as they simply don’t work across all workspaces. Clients are getting more involved in the selection of color pallets and requesting mood lighting. More often than not, modern office design briefs request an ambience that is tailored to represent their own culture, industry and their associates.
Gen Z and Millennial workers are really big on health amenities at the work place. Reports suggest they prefer working in environments that display an appreciation for mental health and advocate employee fitness and mindfulness.
Unlike conventional workplaces, that pay little attention to fitness and mental health, this new era in design emphasizes on the ability of staff to feel relaxed and healthy at work. The school of thought behind this approach is that it increases productivity and creativity levels.
This shift in the design mantra is flourishing in the Middle East especially in new government offices striving to make more environmentally conscious statements. Biophilic design is one approach forward thinking organizations have been using to improve the quality of their workplaces.
This includes touches of nature and daylight, captured through the introduction of glazed walls and even ceilings to capture more sun, as well as vertical gardens integrated into the design of interior and outdoor break areas is one of the most commonly seen changes in recent design concepts.
Ultimately, a successful workplace is one that explores, celebrates and appreciates the needs and individuality of all the generations within it. Winning over the hearts and impressing the minds of not only the Millennials and Gen Z but also showing gratitude towards Baby Boomers and encouraging collaboration among all generations.
It’s interesting to see that this modern interior design movement is transcending the workplace and becoming a major contributor in cosmopolitan societies e.g. prioritizing mental health. Workspace enthusiasts are optimistic about what this movement has to offer, such as celebrating diversity and
creating a balance that marries technology and social media with a productive work setting… all of which is a direct result of having Millennials and Gen Z (and their never ending crave to be socially present and blossom creatively) in the work place.