Office design is a multi-faceted endeavor. Not only is it beholden to the current trends in hospitality/home design, consumer behavior, well-being, and technology, it is bound to the work culture present at any given time within the office. This information drives the product design process that ultimately redefines how you work. As workspace generations constantly evolve and change over the life of your business, keeping the culture vibrant and collaborative by design remains the foundation of great office design.
Helping designers understand how to create environments that meet the needs of multi-generational offices is a work in progress. It has been said that Generation Y is a barometer of the Future Office. But office design today is still very much dominated by the Baby Boomer generation. It has had a stronghold on the design and function of the workplace for so long it is invisible.
By 2020 the Generation Y Millennials will comprise over 50% of the workforce, as the Baby Boomers retire to 23%. In order to attract and retain millennial workers and woo their predecessors, Gen Z, the perceptible shifts in workplace design have already begun.
These subtle shifts in the workforce dynamic keep office furniture design in perpetual motion. Forward thinking for functionality and trend demands constant preparation for the next generation and how they work. Since the planning process for office spaces runs for several years, the designers have to think about where things will be for color and design four years ahead of that curve, with only broad predictions and time frames in mind.
Knoll surveyed close to 15,500 employees, representing four generations in 40 countries, on their ratings of the importance of six workspace features and capabilities. The results from this research provided a glimpse into the needs of the future workforce that is now in metamorphosis.
Office culture is evolutionary. It gains momentum with each generation of new talent. The office furniture design industry looks to interior design trends and other sources to stay out in front of it. Haworth’s head of researchsheds some light on how they manage thinking outside generational preferences for designs that will stand the test of time in the offices of the present and the future.
The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) consulted with experts on future technological advancements that may shift the way we do business as Generation Z comes into the mix. The changes include interactive spaces and furniture, automated business process management tools and sensory recognition software. This is what they’re up against:
Generation Z is being shaped to value order, predictability, and clarity
They’re going to be highly distracted because of the nature of the way that they use technology
They are coming in at the zenith of the collaborative culture, which is not really what they need
Functionality of the office space and the furnishings has to bridge this gap successfully to entice and keep them
Finding equilibrium in the midst of the changing workforce keeps things interesting. Furniture design and development and office functionality in general, especially communication and interaction, are all significant factors. It is a global challenge. The ideal office will always be a moving target. Flexibility is a given. When you are designing your office, keep this in mind and be open to the change. The way your team communicates is the keystone. Not all trends stick and not all furnishings will become out-moded at the same time. Watching the trends will be your best strategy to keep your office ahead of the generational curve.
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