How organisations are rethinking office designs to engage with the GenZ workforce

As we step into the post-pandemic world, we find that the nature of the workspace is forever evolving and there is no set blueprint for workspace strategies. The need to rethink the workplace is not a choice but a business function. Due to the challenges of the last few years, organisations have had to go back to the drawing board and rethink the functionality, need and structure of office spaces. With this overhaul has come the necessity to factor in the new demographic of the workforce, after millennials, the composition of the workforce will be dominated by Gen Z. A recent study by McKinsey, highlights that flexibility, work-life balance and well-being are the foremost thought for employees and potential hires. While organisations in India Inc gear up to welcome this new workforce, the office becomes the first reflection of the change in organisational culture. 

Workforce trends like the Gig Economy and The Great Resignation have proven that pay scale and cosmetic changes in policies are not enough to retain the Gen Z workforce. Unlike millennials, Gen Z will not contest policies or demand change but opt for alternatives. Organisations are still comprehending the needs of the new workforce and hence keeping workspace strategies fluid. According to a study by Gartner, the younger generation is used to hybrid work (having completed their education and entered the industry during the pandemic),  but the experience has been ambivalent. To Gen Z, remote work means retaining in-person interactions while preserving a flexible schedule. Paying attention to what Gen Z expects from the post-pandemic world of work. These entry-level recruits’ needs will influence decisions on renovated office spaces, in-office onboarding support, and development possibilities.

However, there are a few trends that we see emerging across all sectors. 

Maximizing productivity through flexibility 

With organizations regaining business momentum, the primary goal is to boost operational productivity and expedite recovery. The adoption of a hybrid work model allows organizations to maximize productivity through a physical office while also allowing flexibility by making collaborations location agnostic. The new generation of workforce have realized that it is feasible to be productive in alternative work modes while managing fatigue caused by long periods of working from home. Office design needs to be built to nurture creativity, dismantle hierarchy, and be designed for inclusivity. Minimized focus on corner office views and amplification of collaborative spaces which makes the new workforce feel welcome, acknowledged and supported. Despite the demographic, employee well-being and focus on physical and mental wellness is now a priority. Building spaces that have amenities to support this long-term influence design and dictate the need for health and fitness centres, wellness rooms, access to a creche, and mental health experts.

Striking a balance between collaboration and privacy 

The right balance between privacy and collaboration is one of the significant contributors to how a workspace design is implemented. With the new workforce returning to the office after working from home, the office design needs to facilitate options of privacy and social interaction equally. Whether it is to mitigate health risks or habitual user behaviour due to social distancing, the pandemic has reinforced our need for privacy. Office design should arm organisations with the facility for private workspace as well as easy collaboration. For individuals, it means maintaining control over their immediate environment and privacy to work. On an organizational level, the privacy of the workspace gives the company control over culture and brand. 

Talent Retention

Over the last few years, HR functionalities and policies have been tested and redefined to cater to the demands of the new workforce. Flexibility is expected not only in the physical office design, workspace strategies and planning but agility in overall business operations. While talent acquisition is at the forefront, talent retention seems to be the pain point for organisations today. Most of the workforce hired over the last few years has had minimal to no contact with the organisational culture and structure. With talent inductions done virtually and diminished social capital with the leadership, new talent runs the risk of being disconnected from the big picture perspective, company goals and value systems established over time. Employees who were part of the organisation prior to the pandemic have the advantage of being ingrained into the value system and long-term business strategies. This disconnect could make new team members feel less aligned and put them at a potential disadvantage which contributes to the spike in attrition rates. Workspace strategies need to be built to minimise this gap and allow new employees the opportunity to be inducted into the company socially and culturally. Flexible workspace strategies arm the companies to attract and retain talent by giving them the choice of working at their own comfort, flexible timings, addressing pain points and being receptive to the ongoing evolution of workspace design.

Smooth collaboration across generations 

Businesses also need to consider the demographic of their workforce while conceptualizing the structure and design of the workplace. With the current workforce being mostly millennials and GenZ, will also need to understand that the GenX workforce is still very much in business. GenZ is digital natives, meaning they have experienced and used technology from a young age. Having a mixture of generations in one workforce can be challenging to manage as no one solution fits all. Office design, HR policies and technology integration should promote collaboration between generations to foster productivity. The technology, systems and processes used for different generations also need to be simplified and integrated to level the playing field for the totality of the workforce despite their age or location. It is vital for every member of the workforce to be armed with the same tools and can access systems to aid productivity across the board. Workspace design can be vital in harbouring inclusivity, encouraging diversity and reinforcing company culture.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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