Managers and workplace designers think they have their hands full trying to create policies and work environments that take into account the needs of Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials. Just wait until Gen Z starts to enter the workforce—everything will change again.
Who comprises Gen Z, and how does this next generation differ from its predecessors? Kay Sargent, director of workplace strategies at LendLease, outlines the challenges that lie just around the corner for management.
The Gen Z members, as defined by Sargent, are the offspring of the Gen X. Currently, the oldest of the generation are teenagers but, as Sargent noted, “the next generation is on the doorstep and we need to start planning for them. If you are designing workspace today, you need to be concerned about Gen Z. They’re just five years out from the workplace.”
Not only does Gen Z have characteristics that managers and workspace designers will need to take into consideration, but their numbers are jolting: some 2.5 billion strong, compared to the 1.4 billion of Gen X and 1.7 billion Millennials. In the next decade, Sargent said, they will be the dominant generation in the workforce.
In office design in particular, she said, these young people won’t be productive if forced to perform repetitive tasks, especially in a complex work environment with limited opportunities for employees to work in solitude, Sargent said.
“We have to have areas where people can put their heads down and concentrate,” she said. “We've paid way too much attention to collaboration at work. Even those who see themselves as high in collaboration need at least 50% of the time for being alone and focusing on a task. We need more private spaces. The offices of today were designed when everyone did the same task all day. Now that's all changed. Our workspaces must reflect that.”