Office Design

To Retain Millenials, Tear Down Your Cubicle Walls

David Spence
September 26th, 2013

Tips for Keeping A Younger Workforce Happy

1.) Tear Down Your Cubicles

These days, millennial workers find other ways to experience the benefits offered by the cubicle. They need quiet? They use headphones when they need to focus; they use pictures of their loved ones as computer wallpapers instead of physically pinning them on a wall. At Internet shoe retailer Zappos, nobody—with the exception of the company’s lawyer—has an office. They work on their laptops sitting on couches, at shared workspaces or at the nearby coffee shop.

2.) Embrace Flexible Work Models

When you match a millennial’s need for flexibility, you can actually kill two birds with one stone. You’ll give the worker the satisfaction of avoiding the same old routine, while also saving money for the company. As USA Today’s Haya El Nasser writes, “By encouraging staff to work from home, getting rid of offices, even resorting to ‘hoteling’ — workers check in when they’re in the office and get assigned a desk for the day — some companies are slashing average square footage per worker to less than 100, about the size of a one-car garage.”

3.) Optimize Office Design

If you can’t afford to get rid of the cubicles in your office, you may be able to redesign them with a younger worker in mind. Fast Company has several ideas for doing this. Adjustable desks can allow employees to work just the way they want, whether that means sitting down or standing up. Overhead screens can also give privacy, without making workers feel too isolated. You can pair these screens with shorter walls, which can also help workers feel more connected with the rest of the team.

4.) Ask Them About Their Needs

You can read pages and pages of research about the ideal workplace for Generation Y, but each workplace is different. So one of the best things to do to make your office more Gen Y-friendly is simply talk to the younger workers in your own company. Ask them what they’d like to see done differently. Perhaps some workers like having an open-office environment, but perhaps some don’t. When you have that insight, you can make adjustments accordingly.

5. But Don’t Forget Your Older Workers, Either

Ideally, you want to make the workplace environment optimal for everyone, and not just the younger people on the team. With that said, it’s key to also take your older workers’ wants and needs into consideration, too. Some older workers wouldn’t like the hoteling model, for example, because it’s more of a nuisance than a refreshing change from the usual. While it may be a delicate balancing act to keep both older and younger workers satisfied, your reward will be a happier and more engaged workforce.

Employee retention is all about knowing what your workers want. Ask them what their challenges are and brainstorm ways you can resolve those problems. While it is important to keep younger workers engaged, though, also be sure that you take older workers’ needs into account, too. When you find a workplace model that works for everyone, the result will be a better, faster, and stronger company.


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