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Building the Millennial Office

Jason Saville, commercial director at BRITA Vivreau talks to Building Products about what the millennial generation want from their office spaces and how you can adapt yours to encourage a happier and more productive workforce

By 2025, 50% of the workforce will be millennials (those born between 1982 and 2004). This generation are changing the modern workplace with shifting expectations of their employer, place of work and job role. Their wants and needs differ greatly compared to previous generations and they hold significant bargaining power. As such, companies need to resonate with their requirements, attract them with the right selling points, and have perks in place so they stay once through the door.

Arguably, many of the millennials’ demands cannot be met within the workplace if the office building itself doesn’t facilitate the evolving trends and desires from employees now and in the future. To support those who design, build and manage the construction and development of office buildings, at BRITA we have conducted independent research, which surveyed 1,000 UK office workers to determine which elements they would like to ‘filter out’ from their working environments that limit their efficiency. We also asked 1,000 facility managers (FMs) what is important to their office space and what they’d like to see implemented to help improve employee’ health and wellbeing, satisfaction and productivity.

The results revealed some of the key office facilities the UK workforce would like to see within their working environments, as well as initiatives businesses are currently implementing to create an aspirational working space.

One of the main considerations for those who oversee office buildings is the health and wellbeing of the people who work within them. It’s estimated that professionals spend over 90,000 hours in the office over their lifetime and 44% are at their desks for over seven hours a day , so ensuring the working environment promotes a healthy, happy and sustainable workforce is vital. This is reflected in our research results which found that the following are what employees consider to be the key ingredients for a happy and healthy team:

  • 61% said flexible working and comfortable office space
  • 43% said access to outside space and natural light

To support today’s businesses looking to increase productivity levels, nurture employee loyalty and attract talented people, building designers and contractors need to incorporate small changes to the workplace that can help make employees feel valued. After all, happy employees have shown to be up to 20% more effective in the workplace than unhappy employees .

When it comes to meeting the needs of millennials, our research found that 65% of facilities managers believe both natural light and flexible working hours are the most effective initiatives.

Moving away from the traditional office set up, FMs are also looking to implement (or would like to feature in their buildings) outdoor meeting spaces, flexible working and on-site childcare facilities – all aspects we anticipate will influence the design and build of new office buildings.

When it comes to millennials’ workplace demands, sustainability is also key. Some 76% of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work and nearly two-thirds (64%) won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices . It’s safe to say that ensuring a building and the businesses within it are operating as sustainably as possible is a top consideration for those designing and building work spaces.

With hundreds of different sustainable initiatives to choose from, we spoke to facilities managers to find out exactly what their CSR targets are focused on. Some 65% said employees’ health and wellbeing, 63% said lowering energy consumption and 61% said to reduce waste levels , and they’re increasingly looking at how the design and build of office spaces can influence and improve these.

If we take improving health and wellbeing as an example, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution and one of the biggest challenges faced by those in charge of implementing these initiatives is making it accessible, operational and practical for everyone.

Overall, we’ve seen the workplace experience a significant shift in recent years and this is only set to continue. Those designing, building and managing office spaces now need to adopt a new way of thinking to ensure working environments promote a culture of productivity that resonates with the new mindset and behaviours of the millennial workforce. For the construction and management of office spaces, the next step is to evaluate the impact of current office environments, measure the performance and ask whether it’s designed for the future by making a positive difference to the workforce’s behaviour, health and productivity.