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In Focus: Anticipating the Workplace Needs of Generation Z

The new kids in the workplace differ from previous generations and present major implications for workplace design.

Q4 2017
A seismic change is about to hit the workplace. It’s not an earthquake, but it will shake facilities nationwide.

While millennials at work continue to generate headlines, falling under the radar is Generation Z — those born between 1994 and 2010 — who now comprise the largest portion of the U.S. population. As baby-boomers continue to retire, and millennials assume more management positions, the “new kids on the block” are asserting themselves about workplace transformation strategies, including the open office.

Gen Z and millennials both enjoy multi-tasking and are tech-savvy, but there are telling differences. Gen Zers were very young or not born when 9/11 occurred. They don’t know life without war and terrorism, and this may cause them to feel unsettled and circumspect.

Additionally, even more so than millennials, Gen Zers were born into a digital world. They grew up with smart phones, iPads, Instagram, and all the latest tech gadgets. They are intuitive about social and digital media, and integrate the latest apps into their socialization patterns. Gen Zers are part of the sound-bite generation, with a digital bond to the Internet and each other, and this often is reflected in their career choices.

Revealing Stats
  • Studies indicate that 77 percent of 12–17 year-olds owned smart phones in 2015. They spend more than three hours a day using computers for purposes other than schoolwork.
  • About three quarters of those aged 13–17 use smart phones more than they watch TV.
  • Gen Zers will likely generate $44 billion in annual spending for toys, apparel, food, entertainment, TVs, mobile devices, and computers.
  • Gen Zers are a self-conscious generation that always wants to be in the know.
  • Topping the list of employee benefits valued by Gen Zers is workplace flexibility.
Gen Z college students prefer intrapersonal and independent learning to group work. Solo work preference translates to workplace behavior, as only 38 percent said the ability to collaborate in the workplace was key to enabling their best work. This runs counter to the preferences of most millennials who generally thrive in collaborative environments and open workplaces.

Working Toward a Common Solution
So how does the new kids’ arrival shape the workplace and impact its design? And how should facility managers and corporate executives respond? Here are some tips: While millennials at work continue to generate headlines, falling under the radar is Generation Z — those born between 1994 and 2010 — who now comprise the largest portion of the U.S. population.
  • Look for balance in workplace solutions, not “one size fits all.” Flexible workplace design will likely include more “hybrid” offices that combine private space as well as open areas that promote collaboration.
  • Apply change management programs to train and educate staff regarding the benefits of different work settings.
  • Engage experienced workplace consultants. A new breed of contemporary project managers embrace a holistic approach that accents sensitivity to all demographics in the workplace — and strives to find common ground.
We know that 37 percent of Gen Zers polled aspire to be corporate leaders, and 49 percent expect to work in their current industry their entire career. So we need to welcome a new wave of decision-makers. Gen Zers are demonstrating that they dream big and have a “we can change the world” attitude. Maybe some DNA from the baby-boomers has been transferred?

Drastic change won’t occur overnight, but we need to be prepared. We need to consider a new way of thinking to accommodate “new kids” and “older kids,” encouraging them to play nice in the sandbox. It’s all about adaptation and innovation for all generations working together. It’s about the need to be sensitive to different styles while we’re still mindful of common corporate objectives and the bottom line.
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