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What Millennials Want in a Workspace

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If you haven't begun to notice, the face of the corporate workplace is changing.

Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer for the Intelligence Group, estimated in a recent Forbes article that by 2020, 40% of the working population, about 86 million people, will be Millennials. And just five years later, that figure is expected to reach 75% globally in 2025.

With this shift comes a different set of expectations from the workplace. Unlike their parents' desire for work-life balance, Millennials prefer work that's integrated into their lives.

For example, solitary nine-to-five hours in a cubicle or office just isn't for them. Instead, they prefer mobile and collaborative work lives and flexible schedules.

Members of this ambitious generation would prefer to work for themselves. Therefore, employers who want to retain them must respect their independence and encourage their leadership, innovation, creativity and skill development much the way a mentor or coach might.

Millennials are also eager to make positive change in the world. They prefer working for a socially conscious organization with a clear, meaningful mission.

Savvy businesses can show these young, innovative workers that they're listening, in part, through the values that their workspaces communicate. Consider these:

7 workspace elements Millennials find attractive in the companies they work for

1. Collaboration

Millennial workers often get their best ideas through on-the-spot, collaborative brainstorming. They want to work in an open office conducive to building friendly relationships with colleagues. So it's important for growing businesses to consider arrangements that encourage interaction with:

  • Open work stations
  • Mobile task chairs on wheels
  • Small lounge areas
  • Informal conferencing spaces

2. Natural lighting

Just because millennials blur the line between work and life doesn't mean they don't care about health and happiness. Natural light plays a key role in regulating many of the body's functions essential for peak job performance. They want lots of windows with shades and other treatments that allow workers to block out glare while letting the sun shine in. Or as an alternative, one of the bonuses of today's technology-rich workplace is that it's easier to spend some time outside (weather permitting), while still being productive. A grouping of all-weather furniture, coupled with Wi-Fi access, can make for a functional workspace or break area in the great outdoors.

There are many reasons Millennials prefer sunlight to dreary overhead fluorescent workplace lights:

  • Natural light encourages better sleep, which means better daytime wakefulness.

  • Employees with better natural light exposure suffer less depression, leading to increased productivity.

  • Natural light means healthy, intact circadian rhythms, resulting in less obesity and better overall health.

3. Environmental consciousness

Just as today's workers care about their own health, they are also deeply committed to that of the environment. They care about recycling and energy efficiency and want to work for a company that works to minimize its carbon footprint.

With government regulations lacking, Millennials look to corporations to play a large part in addressing climate change and resource scarcity. Companies can demonstrate their commitment to sustainable living through office furnishings with environmentally-conscious components:

  • Reconfigurable formats
  • Recycled materials
  • Carbon neutral and SCS certified products

4. Functionality

A mobile workforce requires workstations that are flexible, simple and wired. Employees come to the office when it's time to collaborate. Rather than permanent offices or cubicles, millennials favor "hoteling" -- flexible, easily shared open spaces with places to stow their bags, plug in their technology and get to work.

To create an environment conducive for this work style, here are some functional features to consider including:

  • Open workstations
  • Storage lockers
  • Informal meeting areas with comfortable, moveable chairs
  • Video-conferencing rooms


Today's mobile Millennials want to use their own devices when they work, so high-speed streaming wi-fi and lots of places to plug in are essential. Consider equipping storage lockers with charging stations.

6. Flexible, ubiquitous brainstorming opportunities (“scribble walls”)

Millennials, also called Gen Y-ers, are most productive when they're free, not chained to a desk. Encourage employees to explore and brainstorm wherever they are by providing the following throughout your building or floor:

  • Whiteboards and markers
  • “Scribble walls”
  • Tables painted with IdeaPaint or workstations that use writable surfaces for workable, dry-erase tops
  • Informal seating areas
  • Comfortable chairs on wheels

7. Relaxation Areas

There's a good reason Google has been named one of the top, most-preferred employers by Millennials two years in a row. Work-life integration means employees can take breaks to meditate, do yoga, or just enjoy a change of scenery. Up and coming businesses are gearing their break areas towards more than just a mini fridge and a microwave, and adding anything from a climbing wall to a gourmet coffee bar and the aforementioned Scribble Walls.

A good office space consultant can help your business plan everything from a kitchenette to places for employees to take short naps or just recharge for better productivity.

To attract today's young, ambitious talent, first learn how they think, then create a workplace that works for them.

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