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The Aging Workforce: How Does Office Design Factor In?

You've just completed a successful project with your diverse team. With a satisfied stretch, you scan the office, grateful for the individual strengths your employees bring to the table.

The millennials, who seem to be enjoying the lastest standing desk trend, leave their stations behind and gather at the celebratory craft beer cart.

Meanwhile, your older team members are packing it up for the weekend.

And you wonder, "Does our office environment support all of our team members?"

Designing office spaces to accommodate the growing demographic of aging Americans is on the minds of many employers as they work to retain and support these valuable workers.

To help you make your office welcoming for your entire team, we break down the who, why and how of office design for the aging workforce.

Who is the aging workforce?

The Administration on Aging predicts that by the year 2020, 22.2 percent of the total population in America will be age 60 or older.

As more Americans continue to work well into their 60s and beyond, employers are facing a shifting demographic in their workspaces as well.

With every 1 in 8 Americans being over the age of 65, taking a look at the benefits and considerations associated with this group coined "older knowledge workers" has become an important part of office planning.

Why should we factor in age when designing offices?

According to the Older Workers Survey, designing offices that support older workers means employers attract and retain team members who have already proven themselves to be:

  • Reliable
  • Loyal
  • Experienced
  • Serious about their work
  • Solid mentors for less experienced workers
  • Great resources for contacts and clients

Remember the successful project you just completed? Your aging workers likely met deadlines, guided millennials and shared valuable perspectives gained only through their years on the job.

To fully benefit from workers with the above attributes, employers should consider making changes in their office environments to accommodate the challenges older workers might be facing, including the natural health changes that can come as persons reach the older years.

Understanding the challenges your older employees may face is the first step toward your next important goal–designing your office space so all workers can reach their productivity potential.

How can office design accommodate aging workers?

Accommodations that benefit aging workers will likely have benefits for others in your office as well, which can make it a great investment.

Adding one or two of the following elements may be all it takes to support your top team members. Think of these suggestions as "age-neutral" accommodations that can make your workspace welcoming for all.

Variety of workspaces

While the trend toward open office plans is certainly having its moment, aging workers tend to prefer areas that foster concentration and tune out distraction. Allow for work areas that offer quiet and privacy.

Lighting

When possible, choose office spaces with natural light as opposed to artificial light. Controllable ambient lighting allows workers to set and change light sources to mimic natural light. Choose lighting that can control glare and be adjusted to the nature of your employees' tasks.

Acoustics

Separate noisy areas, such as meeting rooms and corners that house copy/fax machines, from individual workspaces. Acoustic ceilings, carpeted floors and sound-absorbing panels are additional accommodations to consider.

Ergonomics

Offer a choice of chairs, as well as desks (both standing and seated options). According to the Welcoming Workplace study, if the controls on height-adjustable desks and ergonomic chairs are not intuitive, they may not be used. Offer training for all employees, if necessary.

Alternatives to screen-based training and work

Adjust training to suit the needs and preferences of older workers, keeping in mind that not all workers respond best to screen-based learning. Offer opportunities for face-to-face training and allow for alternative ways of working, such as reading from printed materials.

In an "age-neutral" environment, remember to go to the source–your individual employees. Older knowledge workers may prefer a standing desk, while Millennials could be the workers requesting additional light to do their best work.

Office design for all

We're proud to offer office design solutions suited for all ages. We believe diversity makes for a stronger team. Need help designing your office space for the diversity on your team? We are here to help. Give us a call at 877-779-3409 or fill out our online contact form.

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