Sol Harris Day Architecture


Thursday, November 30, 2023
By Abigail Maurer, Interior Designer
In Design, Planning, Community


by Abigail Maurer, NCIDQ, IIDA

(Authored by a Millennial and reviewed by many Gen Zers)

You may be familiar with the “hybrid” buzz word when it comes to design, function, and process in the workplace. You may have considered how that “hybrid” workplace needs to evolve to encompass the post-pandemic waves affecting global change across all industries. And I’m sure you’ve talked about COVID until you’re blue in the face. But have you considered the next generation coming into that fold and how they have been shaped by these events?

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the 2023 Neocon design conference in Chicago where they hosted a panel discussion on “How to Connect to the Next Generation and How to Stay Ahead of Gen Z Influences.” During the panel, featuring Amanda Schneider (MBA, Founder & President of Think Lab) and panelists Jeanette Kim, Audrey Koehn (NCIDQ, LEED AP) and Isabel Das, that one glaring topic arose:

Most professional leaders have a general misunderstanding of how to connect to this next generation and fundamentally struggle to figure out how to recruit and retain talent from a generation that has substantially different values than their own.

Research shows that Gen Z employees will make up 27 percent of the workforce by 2025, which makes it vital to understanding who they are as the next wave of colleagues. One way Gen Zers are transforming the workplace is their “Work-to-Live” approach, rather than the “Live-to-Work” approach, which Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Gen-Xer’s have embraced throughout the years.

Gen Z looks at work as a way to fund and support their lives away from the office, where they engage with friends, devote quality time to families, thrive in diverse hobbies, and travel to new places for adventure or culture. While success is a driving force that propels them to develop new skills within their employment, a well-balanced life pulls them away from a work week longer than 40 hours.

Ironically, though, studies have shown that no matter what the required working hours are, companies are having a hard time bringing Millennials and Gen Xers back to the office, which has created a huge problem for training new employees without skills or experience. Unlike their predecessors, Gen Zers prefer networking environments to be in-person affairs rather than the virtual interactions we have all become accustomed to over the past few years. Unfortunately, it is my understanding that this generation is experiencing how the absence of human interaction in conjunction with the isolation of the pandemic has put them at a disadvantage to social maturation and the necessary community essential for growth and prosperity. Above all, they desire mentorship that recognizes their need for impromptu interactions and intentional direction to help them filter through the myriad of information at their fingertips. But how can they expect to be mentored if there is no one physically in the office to be mentored by?

Is working from home actually hindering the success of the company?

Many of us have heard about the “hybrid” workplace that allows employees to create their own cocktail of days in the office vs days working from home. Questions have even been raised if employers should have the power to mandate a full-time in-office experience. To the contrary, perhaps we also need to consider the recruitment, renewal, and retention of the next generation of employees that work for those businesses by adding in office amenities that promote wellbeing, engagement, and professional growth to help bridge this gap between the Gen Zers and their more established counterparts.

Gen Zers thrive on choice and the additional quality to life that comes from access to supplied resources for holistic wellbeing as well as compensation for their loyalty to the company. Corporations like UBER and Google, for instance, offer free meals and fitness classes to encourage healthy lifestyles and in person colleague engagement. Employers are adding nap rooms, sensory rooms, and prayer rooms to offer people an in-office experience they would otherwise have had remotely. Private offices are now occupying less of the floor plate to allow more square footage to be devoted to lounges, collaboration, and team building spaces. By furthering wellbeing, supporting mentorship opportunities, and offering individual choice, Gen Zers are more likely to remain with the company. As one Gen Z panelist stated, “Give us a reason to stay.”

So, as we consider moving forward, let us also consider who we are moving forward with and how the hybrid workspace can also become the hybrid workplace.

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