Managing a Multigenerational Workforce Through Workspace Design

The physical & emotional experience of the office plays a vital role in employees’ overall performance. What are some key aspects that employers should take note of to ensure smooth management of a multigenerational workforce?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes.

Photo business women and creative collaboration on computer at night in office for teamwork planning or design lady partnership or designer team coworking on online project vision or proposal strategy

As we journey through this decade, organizations have experienced challenges of accommodating varying needs of the four generations that now share a workspace: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. We come with our own set of values and preferences in the ways we operate at work. To design a space that caters to the needs of the different generations, it takes understanding their expectations and motivations in the ways they work individually and collectively. In a holistically planned workspace, acknowledging and catering to their differences, taking note of where these values overlap and conflict would assist in them working together effectively, efficiently, and harmoniously.

Over the past few years, the nature of work has evolved tremendously across various industries, but how can employers prepare themselves to evolve with the changing dynamics and the varying employee preferences?

Accommodating to all generations require reconfigurations, modifications, and customization in the office in these aspects:

Modular spaces and furniture

When effectively incorporated into office space design, modular spaces and furniture allow employees to have control over their working environment – to create a conducive space that promotes collaboration and communication. This comes in the form of modular workstations and meeting tables, multipurpose breakout areas, and integrated technology solutions to facilitate information-exchange and brainstorming sessions seamlessly. The availability of modular spaces and furniture can enhance teamwork whilst fostering the notion of a collective vision and goal. In this aspect, versatility, agility, and collaboration are factors that cannot be neglected.

Image by Co-labs Coworking, The Starling Mall (Malaysia)

Space utilization

Often, there seems to be a misalignment between what employers provide in the office and what employees expect. There should be degrees of autonomy for employees in the workplace that support their productivity. Space utilization includes offering storage solutions, adjustable partitions, and multi-purpose furniture for employees to make use of in ways and in times relevant to their scope of work. Incorporating these features into office design and layout ensures that every square foot available is utilized efficiently for employees. A workspace that consists of a mix of areas for creative group work, individual work, spaces to reflect and restore, and to connect and recharge are also vital components to promote and support positive experiences in the office and of work itself. Decision makers should explore various spatial arrangements that could foster innovation, creativity, and efficiency whilst providing pockets of spaces for rest and recuperation to create an office where your workforce is allowed to feel and be human.

Image by Ariany Viana

    Mobility strategies

    The term “workplace mobility” refers to the (1) flexibility and mobility within a workplace or office environment and (2) ability for employees to work from various locations, enabled by technology, and the flexibility to adapt their work environments to different settings which could extend out of their designated workspace. Essentially, to allow employees to choose their work environment that supports their effective performance. As we’ve begun welcoming and attracting a new generation of talents, companies & employers must take these strategies into account. Office spaces that offer a spectrum of choices for when and where to work are perceived to be modern and innovative. Relating back to space utilization, such strategies should include areas that cater to individual work such as quiet or tech-free zones, libraries, and focus rooms as well as spaces to reflect or restore such as mediation spaces, rest/nap areas, and outdoor workspaces. Having these options within a workplace can greatly impact both workplace effectiveness and experience.

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    According to the Global Workplace Survey Comparison2023, people spend about 42% of their time working with others – be it in-person or virtually –, 35% working alone, and the remaining time socializing or learning. Companies and organizations must explore human-centric ways to attract and retain talents for long term in lieu of merely adjusting their wages and employee benefits. Establishing a company culture and values that are aligned with the multigenerational workforce will win their minds and hearts. This can be achieved by practicing transparency, equity, and flexibility at work to understand and meet the wide variance of expectations. Offering employees the autonomy in deciding the ways they work best allows employers to better understand their preferences and also support them in taking responsibility for their experience of work and workdays. This is how employers can create offices employees want to be in which positively influences the bottom line.

    If you are exploring ways to design an office space that houses a multigenerational workforce, our experts at Scalable Malaysia are happy to help you get started – with cost-effective designs and world-class standards! We pride ourselves in effective space utilization and would gladly be your shoulder to lean on throughout the process.

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