According to Deloitte, knowledge workers remaining in the workforce past retirement age are the fastest growing work segment. This provides an exciting opportunity for facility managers to reconfigure the office layout while taking multi-generational collaboration and mentorship into account.

As people enjoy vibrant and longer life expectancies, many are opting to remain in the workforce beyond the usual retirement age. With 65-75 + age groups soon to comprise nearly 11 % of the workforce and maturing 40+ workers opting to delay retirement, companies have an enormous opportunity to capitalize on a unique and diverse workforce.

Since California workers are protected against age discrimination by both the ADEA and the FEHA, it is likely that the percentages of a mature workforce may be even higher here. Employers who leverage the knowledge of this generation are sure to stay ahead of the game.

Facility managers are set to play a crucial role in the management and optimization of this new multi-generational workforce by focusing on office design that caters to each generation’s unique workplace needs.

Current design trends lean toward exploring solutions that accommodate the diversity of cultures, work style, and professional preferences of all represented generations. This is evidenced in the trending hot topic discussion of open plan office. Studies show that while Millenials and Gen Z are visual and tech-centric, they crave human connection and often work best in shared spaces, but this doesn’t necessarily work well for more experienced workers who often work best alone with intermittent collaboration.

This need could be balanced by creating private offices and quiet workspaces for older workers. This, combined with the current trend towards the Gig economy and remote employees of all ages, will also require your facilities team to consider portable options—or touchdown spaces— for workers who are only in the office a few days a month.

Optimize Mentorship and Collaboration

Here are some ways to redesign and shape your workplace culture to keep your younger and older workers energized and engaged with each other:

  1. The inclusion of comfortable furniture and softer music in collaborative spaces will make most mature workers feel at ease as they share resources with the younger groups.
  2. Create quiet Wi-Fi dead soundproof refuge spaces where employees can unplug to focus without distraction—disconnecting is a common workplace challenge for members of Gen Z. Be sure the spaces have comfortable furniture to be used as a room for private, one-on-one conversations.
  3. Create a Mentorship Program with key players from each generation. It’s important to remember that, mentoring goes both ways. Younger employees can mentor on topics such as technology and trends, while experienced workers can mentor on relationship building and specific industry knowledge.
  4. Invite mature talent with the highest level of experience to join internal task forces to fill the experience gap by rotating older workers through a variety of jobs and seating arrangements for optimal engagement.
  5. Create a space for in-person meetings where employees of all ages can relax as well as customers. This consistent human connection will help your employees bridge the age gap to find empathy and understanding of all unique and diverse work styles.

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Sharing a Common Ground

One area that is important to all generations is that of health and well being. This need can be supported by providing ergonomics: chairs, portable computers, standing desks and quiet spaces for meditation.

Modern employee areas designed for breaks and the preparation of healthy meals and can serve as a natural space for communication and collaboration. Studies have shown that company cultures that encourage employee breaks foster healthier and more productive employees. Workers that take more breaks tend to be more optimally focused. You could take this healthy initiative even further by closing the office for a week during slow times to provide your talent more space to recharge and regenerate.

Shared workspaces can be designed with commonalities in mind. Instead of whiteboards, you could install blackboards as a nostalgic nod to Gen X and the Boomers; it’s sure to be appreciated. Ideas for mentoring and partnerships can be creatively drawn out on the boards, providing meaning and purpose to the younger generations who list this as a priority for workplace satisfaction.

Forming ties and collaborating with colleagues at all levels is an important survival skill.

– Judith Gerberg,
Executive Coach in NYC

With the ever-evolving state of technology, which has defined each generation in a variety of ways, one thing is clear: the human connection is crucial when considering multi-generational office culture. And since one in four workers will be over the age of 55 by 2024, active symbiotic mentorship and collaboration will likely be the backbone of progressive and successful companies.