Designing the Workplace for the Future: Generation Z


I enjoyed this article about Generation Z at college and in the workplace, especially since we just took my youngest kid to college.


As we packed up the car with all of the stuff for his new apartment and unpacked it a few hours later, I found myself wondering what type of college experience and eventually work experience my son would hone for himself. What will be important to him? How does he fit within these Gen Z findings?


It is interesting to me to think that the pendulum of what is trending in workspace design is beginning to swing the other way. The past has been all about open and collaborative space. We email and text to communicate and create in groups. Researchers say that this is not how Gen Z works. They wonder why you would email when they would much prefer to simply talk to you in person. They enjoy group interaction, but also need their private space to work and focus. (By the way, I agree! Research shows that it takes a person 5 minutes to truly begin to focus when doing heads down time, and if interrupted, we need another 20 minutes to get back to that place). Generation Z wants to be encouraged verbally and get lots of positive reinforcement. In many cases, strong work relationships and encouragement trumps the importance of the dollar amount on the paycheck.


How does that play into your workspace? It means that as Gen X and Gen Z come together, you need a healthy mix of workplace environments. Maybe each employee doesn’t have a private office, but it is important to have places they can go for heads down time. And we need to encourage folks to use them! A private space will never be used if employees are concerned they will be seen as “standoffish” if they hide there for a while.

Your office space will also need to be very digitally relevant. As the article mentions, this is the generation that has grown up with the internet and technology as a given. Your conference rooms and meetings rooms will need to be digitally up to date and ready for easy access.


And if you have the space, this is a generation that wants to be catered to (don’t we all). But now more than ever it will be important to consider how to make them feel valued. Whether it is a break room with healthy lunches served, or areas to stretch and take a break from work, it is important to keep this in mind. Generation Z mixes home and work more than any other generation. Meaning that traditional work hours are not their focus. They may work in the morning and break for a yoga class and tea in the afternoon. But they think nothing of prepping for the week at 9:00 on Sunday evening, or flipping their computer open and working a few hours any given evening. With this in mind, your space and your schedule may need to be able to flex and adapt.


I am looking forward to watching my son flourish within his generation. And I am looking forward to making our client’s workspaces mesh into environments that meet the needs of all their employees. At SideMark, we’re passionate about designing for all the needs of the workplace, including cross generational differences!


- Sandi Jacobs