Born between 1997-2012, Gen Z is the first “fully mobile” generation, completely integrated into technology before entering the workforce — more so than any generation that came before them. They were practically born with iPads in their hands and therefore, most technology is second nature to them.
Many of the first Gen Zers entered the workforce in 2020 and were immediately faced with a once-in-100-years pandemic, which led to the Great Resignation and a seemingly overnight adaptation to remote work that paved the way for the more common hybrid model we see today. From a design perspective, it’s been interesting to see how these factors have molded this generation of workers and how we can create and adapt spaces that will allow them to flourish.
There is a perception that Gen Zers are less collaborative and social than their predecessors, the millennials; however, a study by Generation Lab showed that a full 40% of Gen Z workers would prefer to be in the office full-time, while 39% prefer a hybrid schedule. This is likely a result of having been so isolated at the beginning of their careers or while in school. Keeping these statistics in mind, there will need to be more dedicated office space with specific accommodations and features for the younger generation.
Gen Z employees crave a deep connection to the company they work for. Branded space that embodies the personality, values, and culture of a company by creating a sense of pride and shared vision is powerful. They also don’t want to miss out on opportunities for training through osmosis, ad hoc opportunities for unstructured learning and growth, which can only occur in an office setting.
Far more than any generation that came before them, Gen Zers benefit from having a dedicated seat at the office — a space to call their own due to a lack of resources at home to provide a quiet, focused work environment. They are also more likely to have roommates or be living in smaller spaces that are not conducive to remote work.
While Gen X and older generations come from a “sink or swim” mentality for on-the-job training, younger generations expect a mentorship-based model that is far more structured. Therefore, training areas, including small focus rooms, are critical to Gen Z’s professional development, growth, and overall sense of fulfillment.
The importance of community spaces for Gen Z office workers cannot be underestimated. This generation has a deep need to belong to something larger than themselves and to be part of a greater purpose. They gravitate to work environments that allow them to socialize and absorb the company culture and crave office environments that encourage people to interact, gather and socialize.
Branded spaces that embody the personality of the company are powerful. They create a sense of pride and connect people with a shared vision, which is very important to Gen Z.
Because Gen Z is accustomed to working, focusing, and collaborating in many different ways and settings, activity zones that allow employees to instantly pick up and move to another area based on their current task or even how they are feeling at the moment, are a compelling draw. Throughout the course of the day, they may switch from working in a quiet zone that is open but has a certain vibe (similar to working in a café or coffee shop) to an engagement zone that is designed for more ad-hoc collaboration. This generation understands that by changing their environment, their energy levels and productivity can increase, enhancing their creative thought process.
Wellness spaces are another crucial factor for this generation, who place high importance on mental health and balance. Rest spaces with biophilic accents can help them reset their energy and sense of well-being, ultimately increasing productivity.
And remember, the hybrid workspace is the baseline for Gen Z. While previous generations had to adapt to remote and hybrid work after going into the office for years or even decades, Gen Z has been working remotely or on a hybrid schedule since the very beginning of their careers. All indications are that the hybrid model is here to stay and by creating adaptable environments that cater to the needs of Gen Z workers, we can create opportunities to attract and retain the best talent from this incredibly unique generation.
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