Attract Gen Y Employees with a Great Office Space

Nov 8, 2012

They’re young, they’re talented, they’re tech-savvy, they’re green. Studies show that by creating an environmentally friendly office, you have a better chance of attracting talented members of Generation Y to your workforce.

According to a MonsterTRAK poll on green employment, 92 percent of young professionals interviewed said they would be more inclined to work for an environmentally-friendly company. The information was confirmed by a Johnson Controls large-scale research project in which more than 3,000 Gen Ys from the United States, the UK, Germany, China, and India were interviewed. Ninety-six percent said they want an "environmentally aware or friendly workplace" and 57 percent said they want their employers to perform well above regulatory compliance.

In short, the younger generations are driven digital innovators, but they want a workplace that is aligned to their core beliefs and is environmentally sensitive. Cubicles with high walls tend to cage their creativity, while flexible and team-focused designed office spaces with fewer barriers allow for the free flow of ideas and information.

In considering ways to attract and keep employees productive at your workplace, take note of the designs at hot tech companies such as Google and Facebook.  Natural light pours through their wide open office spaces, group meeting places and thinking spots encourage ideas, and splashes of color satisfy this emotionally engaged generation. There is an emphasis on innovation. Gone are the days of the dusty cubicles and piles of yellowing paper.

In fact, the green movement in business has shifted from the peripheral to the mainstream, with the knowledge that younger employees are partial to working in greener office environments that feature more open space and natural lighting. To adhere to this increasing demand, more companies are lowering cubicle walls below 50 inches and using lower height furniture to improve air flow and access to natural light.  This also helps the new employee by improving communication and helping them learn by listening and watching the practices of more experienced staff members and managers. Glass architectural walls, lighter colors, and surface treatments extend natural light—a known productivity and sales enhancer.

Using water based paints to add earth tones and designing with natural fabrics that don’t release noxious fumes (VOCs—Volatile Organic Compounds) can give the workplace a modern yet serene edge that Gen Ys find appealing.

Furniture choices for work stations and storage can play an important role in enhancing productivity. By maximizing the use of vertical space above desks and areas below desks for storage, desktops and other work area surfaces can be reclaimed and used more effectively. Workflow will improve when work areas are clutter-free and more accessible.

An employee’s chair, keyboard, monitor, and work station should be designed specifically for the individual by a professional who understands workplace ergonomics.  When employees are comfortable, they will feel better, have more energy, will need to get up less frequently, are less likely to develop carpel tunnel syndrome, and they will be happier and more productive.

Younger employees tend to choose work environments that meet their needs and allow them to channel and tap into today’s technologies. They’re looking for innovative and cutting edge companies. Some furniture and equipment can transform an office into the modern environment without a huge financial commitment.  Products such as lampstands that function as charging stations for cell phones or desks with built-in charging mats for mobile devices are becoming more common. Teknion, for example, offers a tangle-free cordless charging station that is greener because it only supplies power when needed which prolongs a device’s battery life.

Being tech-oriented, the younger generation is well informed about energy savings and the vampire effect, which happens when machines suck power while they are dormant.  According to the Johnson Controls project, 53 percent of younger workers want stand-by devices on all electrical equipment. Knowing that printers are huge power-zappers, 72 percent want to share printers in the office, to reduce power consumption. Shared multifunction machines with printing, copying, scanning, and faxing capabilities create a natural “excuse” for exercise and communication. Employees are able to stretch their legs and touch base with each other on the way to and from the printing station.

The younger workforce thrives in an atmosphere that is conductive to teamwork. They spend more time collaborating in technology supported environments and less time working at independent workstations or offices. Creating smaller breakout areas for quick four-person meetings promotes discussion of new ideas. Transforming the corner office with the window view into a group meeting place can have a dramatic impact. Revitalizing and saving space can reduce costs for employers, motivate people, and boost productivity. A combination of changes can result in lower overhead and improved profitability.

Allowing information to flow freely is an easy way of encouraging productivity.  According to book The 2020 Workplace, companies will need to encourage social interactions and connections among employees in a way that extends past the office and into global communities. These same employees will give dimension to your brand and if they experience a pleasant work environment, others will hear about it. 

Mark Damico is the founder and president of The Workplace Group, a growing commercial furniture and office design company located in Hauppauge, Long Island. For more information visit www.theworkplacegroup.com.

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