Shaping Work: Planning Workplaces for Generation Z

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Criteo's new multigenerational New York advertising office.


The design of work environments has undergone major changes in the past decade as Baby Boomers have begun to retire and Gen X'ers and Gen Y'ers (Millennials) have begun to dominate the workforce. Boomers desire for hierarchy and private offices has given way to open offices and more collaborative workstyles.

Will this trend continue for the foreseeable future? Most likely yes, BUT . . . 

The next generation of workers is just beginning to enter the workforce and they will have a significant impact on design of work environments. Generation Z (generally those born after 1995) will create another shift in how we think about work. In approximately five years, they will comprise approximately 60 to 80 million people and 20 percent of the U.S. workforce.

Generally speaking, Generation Z is pragmatic, hardworking and interested in making an impact in the world. Having grown up with the Internet, they are the first generation born using smartphones and wireless technology almost exclusively, making them the most tech-savvy generation of all. Consequently, the growing use of technology (from video conferencing to collaboration software) will continue to impact the workplace.


In a recent report from staffing agency Adecco, Gen Z'ers believe three years or fewer is the ideal job duration. Retaining Gen Z'ers may be the biggest challenge ahead for many companies, and making sure the workplace is "fresh" and not "stale or tired" will influence recruitment and retention. This means creating work environments that are flexible, adaptable and appealing to a new generation. 

Gen Z'ers are likely to be more career focused and entrepreneurial than the Gen X'ers and Millennials. Having grown up during the Great Recession, they value authenticity, transparency and financial stability, and they want to be treated fairly and paid commensurate with their experience. Yet they also are committed to social causes and will choose companies that are socially engaged. When they find jobs that are professionally and personally meaningful, they may, in fact, be more loyal to their employers and accept less pay assuming they are passionate about the company's mission, direction, and leadership.

Opportunity for growth and career enhancement means they may be more dedicated and willing to work even harder than their predecessors. Change and having the opportunity to learn and grow will be especially relevant to Gen Z'ers. Their need for mentorship and learning will mean more openness and face-to-face communication with leadership, management, and co-workers.


So how is Generation Z shaping the workplace? Three trends are driving workplace design over the next five to 10 years.

  • Uniformity: Look for more uniformity and consistency in the workplace. Gen Z'ers thrive on more structure and predictability than their predecessors. Does this mean we are trending back to the world of Dilbertville? No, but it does suggest that they are likely to want less chaos, noise and disruption in the workplace. A place for everything and everything in its place--maybe!
  • Technology: Workplace collaboration is on the rise, and it will continue to accelerate as technology becomes easier to use. This is where Gen Zer's excel. Technology has been their friend and companion from day one and they expect technology that is seamless and ubiquitous. Desk phones, projectors and monitors will be replaced with uber-integrated technology. Walk from room to room or building to building and everyone will be "connected" automatically. Furniture, walls and other ordinary building materials will be reconceived to serve as vehicles for collaboration and visual displays through technology.
  • Privacy: Because Gen Z'ers have grown up in a virtual world, they tend to be less social and comfortable in face-to-face interactions. While still collaborative, they will nonetheless want dedicated private time and quiet spaces for concentrated work. So, look for the workplace to morph once again from today's open workplace norm. Their tendency and ability to become distracted is another reason for needing more privacy going forward. Having a variety of work spaces of different shapes and sizes for different interactions (from very social to very private) will be increasingly important.

Topics: Corporate

Workplace Design

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