As of 2018, there were already 9 million ‘post-Millennials’ (Generation Z) in the U.S. workforce. This generation accounts for the second-smallest portion of the labour force, comprising about 5% of the U.S. workforce, but its presence is growing rapidly.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this generation is the same as the one before them. Having grown up in a different decade, shared traits and tendencies in this generation are not the same ones as Millennials.
According to Generation Z Goes to College, the 2016 book by researchers Dr. Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace, this generation has a different outlook on the world than Millennials. They also tend to have different strengths, preferences for working and communicating, and working styles.
As more of Gen Z enters the workforce, ensure that your office is a place in which they want to work. Which traits of this generation can we use to shape an office environment that allows them to do their best work?
Include the Opportunity for Face-to-Face Communication
Gen Z is the first generation of ‘digital natives’, people who have grown up using and relying on technology. While this has given them less experience with in-person interactions, research shows that they value face-to-face communication. They also tend to dislike using email and talking on the phone, so unless you’re using a chat tool like Slack, face-to-face communication is the way to go.
For this reason, be sure to include informal collaboration and breakout spaces (besides formal meeting rooms) in your workplace. Don’t assume that impromptu meetings or discussions can happen via chat or email – you can save time and attract Gen Z talent by making space for in-person communication.
Create an Environment Conducive to Focused Work
Out of the four main working styles – doing, leading, relating, and thinking – Gen Z tends to prefer ‘doing’ the most. This indicates that they will need focused, individual spaces to get down to work and make headway on their task lists. Phone booths and sound-absorbing individual seating will help you to provide this type of space for them.
Keep in mind that members of this generation often use ‘style shifting’, using the appropriate working style for the situation. This means that they will appreciate flexible spaces that can do the same – adapt to the situation and provide the best environment for the current need.
Reflect a Culture of Transparency
Gen Z has grown up in a time when it is easier than ever for individuals to misrepresent the facts, hide their identity, or spread distorted or false information online. Thus, employees from this generation will value transparency and authenticity from their business and from those with whom they work. While transparency should be part of your culture, you can reflect this in the literal sense through office design. The use of glass and open spaces can make a company feel more trustworthy, as you don’t get the feeling that transactions are happening covertly behind closed doors. Even businesses that require a high level of confidentiality can use these elements strategically.
Give Them a Little Privacy
As this generation has reached adulthood, stories of massive data breaches have become all too common, and online privacy doesn’t always receive the respect it deserves. Therefore, members of Gen Z tend to be quite private people and be concerned about how much information they share about themselves. They will appreciate having a space where they can put their heads down and get to work, along with some level of autonomy, as opposed to being hovered over and feeling watched.
Get Your Technology Up to Date
Their familiarity with technology means that Gen Z employees may not have a lot of patience for a company that resists updating old or poorly integrated tech. For example, they likely will not be impressed by poor integration of remote employees into the physical office. You don’t need the newest and most expensive technology, but it’s important that it be efficient and well integrated.
Consider Incorporating Music into the Workplace
In recent research, many Gen Z students reported enjoying background music as part of their learning environment. It’s likely they will continue to enjoy this as part of their work environment. Consider incorporating (lyric-free) background music into your workplace – classical music, shown to improve accuracy, might be a good place to start.
Have an Organized Office Layout
An ad-hoc office design will probably not sit well with Gen Z employees. They tend to be a pragmatic generation with an appreciation of predictability and logic. Haphazard design or spaces without any clear purpose will be off-putting for members of this generation. Make sure your office is laid out in a way that makes sense and that all spaces have a distinct purpose.
Gen Z is the next group of entrants into the workforce – make sure your workplace is ready!