Millennials and Office Space Design

Earlier this week, CBRE released a report titled Designing the Office Of The Future? Don’t Plan It Around (What You Think You Know About) U.S. Millennials.

To provide some context, a Millennial is a member of the workforce born between 1981 and 1996. That group currently makes up approximately 24% of the workforce and it is estimated that by 2025, that number will reach 75%.

To that end, many companies are taking a hard look at not only how, but also where they occupy their offices. The consensus has been that Millennials want to live in urban areas and work in collaborative spaces, much different than the Baby Boomers and Generation X.

However, in culminating the data from an extensive survey, the research shows that there are more similarities than differences when it comes to the type of work environment Millennials desire compared to previous generations. In fact, according to the report, Millenials’ first priority is a place where they can concentrate and think (if you are picturing someone working in headphones, you aren’t alone) with space for collaboration and meetings a close second.

What’s interesting to me is that Baby Boomers and members of Generation X had the same priorities. The only big disparity was the importance of a place to socialize, which was the lowest priority for all of the groups, but the Millennials place a far greater value on this than their predecessors.

While I am of the opinion that once Millennials start getting married and having kids that they will leave the urban areas, the population numbers already favor the suburbs.  According to a 2012 survey, approximately 56% of adults ages 20 – 34 live in the suburbs, a number than has actually increased very slightly since 2000.

While the population may slightly favor the suburbs, companies will continue to focus on downtown locations, as the commuting patterns are more favorable for a larger number of people. Many living in an urban settings wouldn’t consider a reverse commute, but those in the suburbs are accustomed to a reasonable commute.

So, what does this all mean? As always, there’s no one answer that fits every company.  However, employees of all ages value choice, transparency and technology. A workplace design that is balanced is the key to a productive, forward-looking environment.