shutterstock_521030878As the U.S. workforce undergoes dynamic changes, companies are adapting their office layouts to meet the demands and preferences of the next generation of employees. Advances in technology have enabled the workforce to “unplug” and become increasingly mobile, and new work patterns among “knowledge workers” are driving office design that enables more collaboration and interaction.

The steady retirement of baby boomers has ushered in millennials as the predominant workplace generation[1] in the U.S. labor force. Millennials are beginning to move into middle and upper management and are driving office design decisions for their companies. The next generational cohort, Generation Z, will enter the workplace within the next five years. These younger workers have been raised with technology and social media, and they expect office settings that are accessible, adaptable, comfortable and available on a 24/7 basis.

Workplace design is now seen as a way to increase productivity and enhance employee satisfaction. The following trends[2] are emerging in office design:

  • Flexibility rules, as walls are eliminated and open plans dominate. Cubicles are disappearing in favor of moveable components in open space. Shared bench-type workspaces with shared community areas are beginning to dominate the office setting.
  • Companies used to worry about space utilization when they assigned office seating, but today employees are linked by technology and can work from anywhere, reducing the number of people in the office at any given time. Many organizations are moving from dedicated offices to unassigned seating and semi-private configurations.
  • Office employees are considered “knowledge workers” who collaborate more, so offices need multi-purpose spaces that can be used for meetings, multimedia presentations and casual breakout areas.
  • Some workers still need quiet space in which to work and concentrate, so some companies have introduced quiet zones and small cubicle “pods” for temporary escape.
  • Younger workers tend to merge their work and life seamlessly, so companies that want to attract and retain them are adding comfortable lounge areas that enable both work and casual interactions.
  • New technology, especially the use of tablets as workplace tools and the development of workplace wearables, is driving changes in office design. As tablets have begun to replace laptops, they enable employees to “cut the cord” for mobility and work in smaller spaces.
  • Modular components that can be easily moved and re-configured offer the greatest flexibility in layout. This enables companies to be agile and adaptable for changing workforce requirements.

[1] “Millennials surpass Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force,” by Richard Fry, Pew Research Center, May 11, 2015. Available at: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/

[2] The trends list is compiled from the following sources:

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