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Is it Time to Remodel Your Company’s Offices? How to Design a Millennial-Friendly Workplace

Is it Time to Remodel Your Company’s Offices? How to Design a Millennial-Friendly Workplace

If your office space was designed when fax machines were still considered “high tech,” chances are it’s filled with cubicles and doors that close. That could hurt your chances of recruiting and retaining millennial workers.

Driven by mobile technology and a greater emphasis on collaboration and innovation, modern workspaces are much more open and flexible than those of the past. Instead of walled-in workstations surrounded by perimeter offices, modern floor plans often feature shared worktables, lots of sunlight, and even cafes. Informal meeting areas feature sofas and beanbags. “Team spaces” (a.k.a. conference rooms) and “huddle rooms” tend to be bright and colorful.

The move toward open floor plans started with innovative companies like Google and Facebook, but it is now the norm across nearly all industries.  About 70 percent of US offices have some sort of open concept, according to the International Facility Management Association. To emphasize a sense of shared mission, managers and executives often work shoulder-to-shoulder with the rank and file.

In response to concerns about productivity in completely open workplaces, many designs now include quiet nooks for privacy as well as soundproof booths for making calls. Microenvironments, or “spaces within spaces,” help to strike a balance between solo work and collaboration.

Office Features that Employees Want

Most people spend more than half of their waking hours at work, so being in an environment that is comfortable is important. Some of the features employees appreciate in a workplace are the same ones we try to cultivate in our homes – a relaxed atmosphere, lots of light, appealing design.

By producing a homey vibe within the work environment, you create a place where employees want to be. When asked what they want to see in their office, most millennials agree on a few key concepts. This alone should influence office renovations.

  • Open spaces – Cubicles and corner offices foster isolation and enforce rigid hierarchical leadership models. Open floor plans with areas for different teams, on the other hand, encourage collaboration and innovation. They shift the focus from “my space” to “our space” and make employees feel like they are part of something bigger. Bringing managers out into the open makes them more approachable and reinforces the philosophy that good ideas can come from anywhere.
  • Flexible work areas – Keep the design flexible. Employees today are armed with the technology to keep them mobile. Instead of being tethered to a single desk, millennial workers want to be able to get up and move around – work at a cafe table, sit on a sofa, or even take their laptops to a courtyard outdoors. Sometimes a change of scene helps employees stay sharp and think more creatively, so offer a variety of work areas including quiet nooks.
  • Relaxed settings for collaboration – Some employees are more comfortable brainstorming and throwing out ideas in a casual environment than in a boardroom. Opt for bench seats in front of a huge window, comfy couches arranged in a circle, or place a group of beanbag chairs on a plush rug.
  • Central location – Millennials are more aware of their carbon footprints than other generations and don’t want to spend hours commuting back and forth to work. They generally embrace a “live, work, play” philosophy and value workplaces that are within walking or bicycling distance of restaurants, shops, and apartments – especially in cities where parking and traffic are difficult to navigate. If you’re thinking of moving your office, consider a renovated historic building located in the center of town or an urban warehouse or loft.
  • Emphasis on wellness – Millennials don’t want to sacrifice their health and wellness for work. They place a high value on things like ergonomic furniture, standing desks, adjustable height monitors, and other tools to prevent posture problems and eye strain. Nutrition and stress management are also priorities. Offer a game room or lounge for breaks, an exercise area, and a full kitchen for preparing healthy snacks.
  • Natural light – Fluorescent tube lighting has no place in a modern office. Millennial workers don’t want to feel completely cut off from the outside world. Bringing down cubicle walls can help natural light come in. If you must section off spaces, use low walls to help maintain as much openness as possible. Place plants and maybe a fountain in a central location to help bring the outdoors in.

BigRentz Break Room
The BigRentz break room has lots of light and natural features.

Why it’s Worth it to Invest in Renovation

In 2016, millennials surpassed Generation Xers to become the largest generation in the U.S. workforce.  According to a Pew Research Center analysis, approximately one-third of American workers are now millennials. They also tend to be on the move with their careers more than any other generation.

A Gallup Poll found that six out of 10 millennials are open to new job opportunities, and approximately one in four say they have switched jobs within the last year. This turnover rate costs the U.S. economy over $30 billion annually, with the cost to replace a single millennial within a workplace is around $15,000 to $20,000 each.

Many of today’s jobs didn’t exist a generation ago and the people best suited for them grew up in the new millennium. If you have a computer or software problem, chances are a millennial has the solution. Because this generation seeks out forward-thinking companies whose work culture reflects their values, it’s worth it to update your company’s interior to attract to this population. Nearly 90 percent of workers are not satisfied with their current work environment. Creating an appealing, open-floor office can help you to recruit and retain talent.

Renovating your office with your workflow in mind can also improve efficiency. When departments that depend on each other are in close proximity, they can often solve problems with a quick conversation rather than lengthy chains of emails. Grouping teams together in a thoughtful way can make communication easier, streamline processes, and save your business money.

7 Tips to Renovate Your Office with Minimal Disruption to Operations

  1. Do it in phases. Don’t rip everything apart all at once. Choose one part of the office to work on at a time and try to contain disruption to that area.
  2. Set a clear and realistic schedule. There is often a difference between how long things should take, and how long they actually will take. Being overly optimistic when setting a timetable can set your company up for disappointing delays. Plan for contingencies. It’s better to underpromise and overdeliver.
  3. Get as much as possible done outside of office hours. Portable light towers make it possible for work to take place at night. Weekends are the best time to do noisy processes or those that generate a lot of dust.
  4. Don’t expect employees to endure significant noise and chaos. Move them away from areas that are being worked on or allow them to work from home on construction days.
  5. Use storage containers. Portable containers are a good way to keep construction equipment and tools close but out of the immediate office area.
  6. Communicate. Keep your workforce informed about progress and next steps throughout the project.
  7. Respond quickly to employee concerns. Problems will invariably arise. The mark of a good company is how you handle them. If the renovation causes problems for your employees – especially affecting their health or ability to perform their jobs – listen and respond quickly.

Final thoughts

Each generation leaves its own mark on the workplace. With millennials accounting for over a third of the current workforce and leading some of the most important innovations in business, it’s important to understand how they prefer to work and create environments that will attract them to your company, Being able to recruit and retain this generation will help your business in the long run.

At BigRentz, we practice what we preach. We renovated our offices in 2014 and have worked hard to develop a company culture that attracts top talent.

BigRentz Pajama Day
Members of the BigRentz team on “pajama day.”

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