How to build offices to suit the workers of tomorrow

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  • How to build offices to suit the workers of tomorrow
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Matthew Brooker


Matthew Brooker


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Creating commercial space used to be easy. We all knew the brief of fitting as many workers as effectively possible into an office space and generating as many efficiencies across costs as we could. But the world has changed, with technology facilitating the way we live, play and work. With these changes has grown a new generation of millennial office workers, often dubbed Generation Snowflake, writes Matt Brooker; commercial sector lead at RLB UK.

A term originated by Claire Fox in her book I Find That Offensive, members of Generation Snowflake are “genuinely distressed by ideas that run contrary to their worldview.” As they approach working age, employers have seen how this snowflake generation are melting away, moving on quickly if they feel their expectations are not being met.

Employers and estate managers are now asking how they manage this evolving workforce and how they create workspaces for those who are to become the workers of tomorrow.

Flexibility around workspace

The 9 to 5 is dead. With the age of technology has come the ability to work as and when we want and need, enabling us to weave work and personal life seamlessly. But how many people are working in spaces that were created for the 9 to 5, with facilities that were designed for daytime working and an eight-hour day?

The office of today needs to be agile and flexible. New working concepts include wrapping your company’s brands and employees’ lifestyles into your workspace, with forward-thinking companies offering libraries for “quiet” work, cafés and coffee shops for networking, outdoor space for meetings and lounges for communal work.

It means creating more options to give workers choice. We have seen the tech companies leading the way with the new LinkedIn offices in San Francisco offering silent discos for staff and Airbnb recreating the rental apartment that the founders lived in when they first thought up their business brainwave.

How technology is changing their space

Technology is the game-changer. Generation Snowflake is the first generation of workers who are digital natives, born swiping their way through life. They have an expectation of technology facilitating every need.

Nvidia, a US company that makes chips used in artificial intelligence, is installing cameras in canteens to recognise food that staff are eating, making their lunchtimes counter- and cashier-free and speeding up the process of lunch at work. They are also planning a self-driving shuttle to transport employees from building to building and AI to monitor employees’ arrival and departure times so their building can self-regulate its temperature systems.

Technology within the workforce will allow Generation Snowflake the ease and convenience of working life. No queues, less hassle and less admin, with sensors in desks to monitor their movements in and out of offices, automatic heating and lighting regulation without thought or action on their behalf – all of this will be expected for buildings going forward.

This was all supported at a recent RLB Wellbeing at Work roundtable with industry leaders that discussed issues as diverse as the ability for the individual to choose and influence their own working environment, lighting, heating and accessibility together with the concept that the view might be just as important as the daylight and the link between an increase in mental illness and pervasion of technology.

Wanting to change to work

The youth of today and tomorrow are not only demanding a certain level of facilities and requirements in their offices, but also a level of ethics and values by the companies they are working for.

With our digitally connected world and social media platforms they have the tools to act and hold institutions to account directly. They see the careers and the offices they choose to work within as part of who they are and their own personal values.

Companies need to ensure that their brand and ethics match this new view of the world. There is now a need to ensure that facilities are maintained and that people want to go to work in the space provided. And millennials will vote with their feet. The future workforce wants a fairer world.

A recent report by Deloitte says that six in 10 people believe they have at least a fair amount of accountability for protecting the environment and seven in 10 believe their personal values are shared by the organisations they work for. And they need an office space to reflect these values.

They also want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognised, and value similar things in an employer brand to a consumer brand. They are not just choosing an employer, but a way of life.

The youth of today and tomorrow are not only demanding a certain level of facilities and requirements in their offices, but also a level of ethics and values by the companies they are working for.

As the tech industry disrupted the way we work by offering football tables, free lunches, beanbags, ball pits and helter-skelters, we are now seeing companies bringing a number of more mature facilities that people need to live into the workplace – like a self-contained village.

Employees have less reason to leave. A recent independent report by Raconteur highlighted how our millennial workforce views the existing gap between the importance of various physical and service offers in their workforce and their current levels of satisfaction.

What is apparent is that millennials have a real sense of what needs to improve. The question is are we listening to them?

Generation Snowflake might have been termed for those who seemed to quit quickly when their values and expectations are not aligned. But for those working in the built environment it is making us question and challenge the way we work and the offices we are creating, ensuring they meet this new generation’s values and putting the worker at the core of the office offering.

This article originally appeared in Estates Gazette.


Matthew Brooker
Matthew Brooker

Partner - National Head of Commercial