A number of companies have been transforming their traditional work environments and culture to accommodate the unique needs of a younger workforce. There have been a number of recent reports and studies on this, including one by CBRE Group Inc concluding that by the year 2020, Millennials will represent about 40% of the working population in the world. At a time like this, designing workspaces keeping Millennials in mind is becoming increasingly important. (Note: while there are many definitions, the consensus is that Millennials are defined as those born between the mid-1980’s and the late-1990’s, and who reached young adulthood after the year 2000)
As a workspace designer, I try to understand the needs of the Millennials from the workspace point of view. I believe that it is extremely important to empower the generation and make them feel responsible. It is crucial to give to them a sense of ownership to their work and workplace – something the older generation does not fully appreciate. Millennials want to be given responsibility and then be left alone to prove their mettle. Therefore, when designing and building workspaces where the bulk of the workforce is Millennial, there are some specific cues to work with.
JTCPL Designs had the good fortune of designing multiple spaces for one of the world’s largest and most prestigious banks- their offices in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune. The project in Pune was unique because it was a venture that truly celebrated the dominant occupants and users of the workspace—the Millennials. Below are some of the key elements of the workspace where the needs of the Millennial workforce were very apparent.
While traditional work spaces have concentrated on a layout of cubicles and private offices, this particular workspace flaunted a very high proportion of open spaces across the building, with only five office cabins in the entire office area on a single floor. The solitary private office found an extreme corner, with the rest of the envelope open, allowing people sitting even in the innermost corners to see the view outside.
Collaborative zones were placed inside, to allow for free flow of ideas and communication between coworkers. We even evolved a menu of spaces, with a very low proportion of owned spaces, and a majority of the floor plan occupied by shared spaces. Social hubs manifested themselves in various forms and each one of the nine floors housed a coffee point and areas for recreation. Owing to the size of a single floor plate in the building – almost 50,000 sq. ft. – we decided to vertically explode the cafeteria rather than having one large dining area.
Colour Coded Floors
To give to the team members a sense of identity and playfulness at their workplace, each of the nine floors were color coded, keeping the overlying theme in sync. To encourage a high level of communication and collaboration between workers on different floors, special recreational facilities such as pool tables were placed on alternate floors through which we were able to facilitate a cross pollination of ideas and thoughts between Millennials themselves, across floor plans.
Unlike traditional work environments – where the floor space belongs to individual offices and cubicles, the floor space in this project belonged only to the Millennials. Huddle spaces that formed informal meeting rooms right in the middle of the workspace endeavored to accommodate the younger workers. The offices of their seniors were all built on the top floor, owing to a collaborative activity that required the convergence of all the leadership. This helped in giving the younger people a sense of freedom.
Understanding the need of Millennials to be praised in public but critiqued in private, quiet rooms were built on each floor to allow managers to give their subordinates feedback. We also designed isolated phone booths that were installed in certain pockets of the office.
The project saw about 25 tweaks and changes during the design process to, but the final outcome was something everyone was happy with. The CBRE research report cited above said that 85% of Indian Millennials place importance on office design and layout while looking at a new job and that made me smile, knowing that I had helped design a workspace that not only catered to, but truly celebrated this generation!