Office Makeovers May Be Needed; Millennials Want Flexible Spaces

Professionals, and especially millennials, increasingly prefer flexible office spaces that enable social interactions and accommodate all kinds of work styles. 

"Work gets done in several different ways throughout a given day," Stefanie Spurlin, workplace strategist for Capital One, told Bloomberg BNA. According to a Capital One survey of 2,500 of its employees, released Aug. 29, 82 percent believe that "companies cannot encourage innovation unless their workplace design and environment is innovative." Respondents also stated that workplace design is equally as important, or more important, than workplace location, which is "counter to what businesses have known for the last many years," Spurlin said. 

The key to an office design succeeding with younger workers is the flexibility it offers them, Spurlin said. "Work spaces should provide options and balance for employees to both work together and work solo," because 88 percent of office professionals said they have their best ideas when they're working in flexible office designs, she said. 

Other office space preferences for Capital One professionals in New York City, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, and Washington include: natural light (cited by 62 percent); artwork and creative imagery (44 percent); easily reconfigurable furniture and spaces (43 percent); collaborative spaces (37 percent); and bold colors (26 percent). 

"Our workplace strategy is really focused on flexibility so that all associates, regardless of their work style, have the opportunity to thrive," Spurlin said. 

A typical work environment with cubicles or offices for each employee can be very expensive in metropolitan areas like New York City, Washington, and San Francisco, Jeff Revoy, chief revenue officer at workplace software company SpaceIQ, told Bloomberg BNA. "One employee to one desk is kind of an antiquated point of view," he said. Workers no longer need to come into the office to accomplish their work, so employers are increasingly thinking about how to manage their work space more efficiently, he added. 

To accommodate this need for flexibility, businesses are investing in the concept of "neighborhoods," according to Revoy. This means spaces are no longer laid out in a traditional office style, and instead there is mixed seating and tables in a completely open floor plan, he said. These spaces lend themselves to more collaboration and points of contact and can mimic a "home away from home," so people don't feel like they are in an overly formal or structured environment, Revoy said. 

However, private work spaces also are highly valued by millennial workers, Revoy said. Employers should devise a way to encourage use of both kinds of space, such as through a mobile app that enables workers to book private conference rooms or hideaways when they need privacy, he added. 

Employers will need to study how workers are using their current office space to better know where to focus efforts in any redesign, Revoy said. "By knowing how employees prefer to work, companies can really invest in the work spaces that lead to the best business outcomes," he said.

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