Like most companies around the country, the one that I lead is made up of employees ranging from the younger cusp of the millennial generation up to baby boomers.
When the lease on our current office space came up for negotiation this year, we needed to decide if it still worked for our needs. When we began discussing renovations on our current office space, we quickly discovered that many of the concerns fell along generational lines.
While some of the older staff scoffed at the idea of an open floor plan, there were pleas for more communal work spaces from the younger.
This divide is representative of the times that the staff entered the work force. Baby Boomers got their start when hierarchy was emphasized, and they grew comfortable with very separate workspaces and offices. As time went on, office spaces became more open and less hierarchical in an effort to encourage collaboration and creativity.
So how do you plan for an office space that will make everyone happy and productive? Consider the following tips to ensure that your space will work for the whole company.
Think About What Motivates Your Employees
Before diving into renovations, spend some time thinking about your company's culture.
Are your employees looking for inspiration and creativity? Or are they motivated by competitive compensation incentives?
Do they hold frequent face-to-face meetings? Or do they prefer email?
Greenleaf is a creative company, where we encourage collaboration. For this reason, it is important in our renovation process to have several meeting spaces where employees can gather.
Places like Lego's Denmark office are designed to encourage a blend of work and play. After all, the company's vision is to be the "future of play," so including a slide for employees to ride downstairs seems like a logical fit.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you run a competitive company where employees are striving toward individual goals and incentives, their drives may be different, and the office space should reflect it. Consider ways to minimize noise, like more designated offices, phone booths, or privacy pods.
Regardless of age, your employees should be striving toward the same goal. Make sure that the office space reflects the culture and supports their efforts to attain it.
Avoid Generational Stereotypes
In other words, don't buy a Ping-Pong table unless you're sure it won't collect dust.
Not all millennials want a bright, airy warehouse space, and not all baby boomers want their own office with a bar cart. Get a feel for the kind of space your employees want. You might be surprised.
Also keep in mind that workplace trends have come and gone over the years. The hotly debated open floor plan was introduced in the 1950s as a way to keep costs low and increase productivity. The idea has had a recent resurgence and is often thought of as a must-have for millennial employees, despite studies showing its many adverse effects.
Adopting any office design trend too severely can isolate members of other generations who may feel like they aren't as much of a priority.
Be Realistic About What You Can Offer
Office spaces have become a trendy topic, especially as design has played a more significant role in conversation of late. Companies like Cloud DCS in China have created over-the-top designs for their offices that are certainly enviable.
But the truth of the matter is that your company may not be able to afford nap pods or art installations. Set those expectations with your staff up front to avoid disappointment.
Be Firm in Your Decisions
At the end of the day, if you run a multigenerational company, you will not be able to satisfy everyone's office tastes.
Someone may still be upset about losing his or her office, and another may still be hoping for more natural light. Most employees will need to make some concessions.
Rather than try to placate everyone, remember that it's your job to ensure the productivity and happiness of the company as a whole.
As you begin your office design process, keep these tips in mind and your investment in the right kind of office will pay off.