Engagement in the workplace | Part two

Promoting engagement in the workplace requires us to design to generational preferences.

Employee engagement is on the mind of today’s organizations. This is part two in a three-part series on engagement in the workplace. Read part one here.

Promoting engagement in the workplace requires us to design to generational preferences.

Millennials/Gen Y [born in the ‘80s- early ‘90s], and now Gen Z [born late ‘90s-early 2000s] have all grown up multitasking with technology that is transportable. They are accustomed to a blurry line separating work and social life. They have grown up doing work (or originally, homework) with lattes in hand in coffee bars, cafes and shops, and view “distraction” differently. This mobile generation has indirectly been exposed to public and semi-public environments that naturally have the elements that set the stage for casual collision, and a nimble readiness. They’re accustomed to collaborative zones, free Wi-Fi and caffeine.

This has resulted in several generations of professionals entering the workforce who are unknowingly pre-disposed and naturally prejudiced to desiring agile, enabled workplace environments. Agile working focuses on work as an activity that can take place almost anywhere—anywhere technology and furniture (and a power source) allows it.

WeWork-Seaport-Dugout-Lounge-NYC

We Work, NYC

These agile, enabled workplace environments are made more attractive by design. Their perks, benefits, and enhancements attract professionals and make them comfortable working longer hours. These workplaces serve as a counterpoint to the communal home environments young professionals are often cohabitating in. They are designed as spaces where socialization and work blend seamlessly—this parallels the lifestyle these generations grew up in and are likely leading in the cities and areas where they work.

Similarly, communal environments which allow for frequent casual collision, contact with peers, managers, and senior staff appeal to professionals from these generations. These younger professionals expect environments which allow for direct, unfettered access to and direct dialogue with senior executives for themselves and their clients.

Perks and features of the office—which can include anything from food, yoga, dry cleaning, and laundry service, free professional training, casual dress code and hours, choice of a number of numerous workplace settings–all contribute to professionals spending more time at work and further blur the line between work and non-work time. In this way the difference between workplace and bar, cafe, lounge and restaurant is smaller. All of this drives employee engagement for those that came of age doing work in a mobile, casual environment.

For more on engagement, download the new VOA Design Quarterly.

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