Baby Boomers comprised more than half of the U.S. workforce in 2010, but by 2020, they will be outnumbered by Millennials. A study by Forbes projects that three out of four workers will be Millennials by 2025. This tech-savvy, creative group has notably different working styles and preferences than other generations. For instance, because their ease with mobile technology enables many of them to work anytime, anywhere, Millennials may be more productive sitting in cafés or lounge areas than in traditional workstations. And whereas Baby Boomers had a strong need for privacy and offices in the workplace, Millennials favor fewer cubicles and more collaboration.
It’s been described as “work casual” and is becoming manifested in the physical design of our offices. Forward-thinking companies, particularly in the tech sphere, have jumped on this trend by building highly original office environments with lots of places for casual, impromptu meetings and lots of glass office fronts. Hierarchy, tenure, and seniority are no longer the key factors in design, and flexible work zones are displacing high, opaque walls. Surveys show that employees---Millennials in particular----are more productive when given a variety of places in which to work. Employee costs are the largest expense for any company, so making staff comfortable benefits the bottom line.
Today’s employees are spending more time in meeting rooms and project spaces, at clients’ offices, and telecommuting, so they’re spending less time in their workstations. The result? Workplace density is on the rise. According to the global technology research firm Gartner Group, workers typically spend just 40% of their time at their desks, and non-group tasks have decreased to about 20% of the working day. As a result, personal workspaces have shrunk by about 30–40% in floor area. Personal workspaces are also getting smaller because the technology we’re using is smaller. Flat-screen monitors allow shallower work surfaces, which means less footprint per workstation. And more space is saved when sleek glass office fronts replace clunky cubicles and dated drywall. Still, it’s important to note that efficient design is not about decreasing square footage, but about increasing utilization---maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of the space.