Companies Work to Create Millennial-Friendly Work Environments

There’s no doubt millennials have different expectations about their work lives than those of us who launched careers decades ago. And those expectations are not only about pay, upward mobility and vacation. They’re about the physical work space too.

What do young employees want? And how can companies make sure offices are designed to appeal to them?

“In the past decade or so, we’ve seen workplaces change from cubicles to open-air offices to now more flexible workplaces,” says Bobby Goodman, co-founder of Truss, a company that helps companies find office space. Now that millennials comprise a large portion of the workplace, it is inevitable that designs will continue to evolve, he adds.

What that design looks like will vary from company to company, according to Swapna Sathyan, director of workplace strategy and change at design firm CannonDesign. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” Sathyan says. “Every company must understand their culture, business objectives and employer brand in order to develop a customized workplace response.”

Goodman offers the following tips to help companies create millennial-friendly work environments:

–Develop smart location options. This means more than just the option to work remotely. “For example, while our main office is in Evanston, we have a co-working option in downtown Chicago,” he says.

–Leverage your location. That old adage “location, location, location” still rings true. “For some companies that still need or require a traditional office space, I recommend they look at the surrounding area and what’s nearby,” he advises.

Will the restaurants, shopping and fitness centers be an incentive for your employees? Access to public transportation is also something to consider. “For example, in Chicago, Fulton Market is sometimes difficult to get to, but some employers offer shuttle options from the trains,” he says.

–Create downtime spaces. Employees need a place to take a break, whether it’s to eat lunch, chat or read the news. “If you find your shared spaces are being used for meetings or interviews, that’s typically an indicator that you need more office space for your growing business,” he says.

According to Sathyan, it also is important for companies to understand factors that workplace design can influence: the employee’s experience and productivity, the company’s financial performance, and the company’s ability to recruit and retain quality workers among them. To achieve those goals, she says companies should:

–Invest in data and measurement. “Companies should leverage both qualitative and quantitative information to develop robust workplace strategies and standards,” she advises. “Data can reveal interesting insights on the current state and inform future direction.”

–Engage employees and align leadership. “Every company must understand and align on their employees’ current realities and business goals for the future before making large capital investments,” she says.

–Marry policy with workplace design strategy. “One of the leading tripwires for successful workplaces is the disconnect between workplace strategy and technology or talent policies,” she cautions. “Develop a holistic strategy that avoids these challenges.”


(Article written by Kathleen Furore)