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Workplace of the future

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Millennials, who make up the largest component of the workforce, are demanding eco-friendly office solutions and designs that bring the outdoors in, says Paragon Interiors’s Natalie Mabaso.

This includes offices with more plants, the use of natural timber, plenty of natural light, as well as recycling considerations.

“Access to the outdoors is also popular – even just a bench and umbrella where you can have your lunch.”

Popular in office design at the moment is an industrial look and feel – exposed ceilings, raw brick, screed flooring – warmed with timber tones, rugs and other soft finishes. Employers – or landlords – can make employees happier and more productive through budget-friendly changes to their workplaces.

“Consider the placement of workers in the office. Is a particularly noisy team seated next to a department that requires a quieter environment to work? Is there an opportunity to reposition them? Are two teams located in separate areas, but often collaborate? Reorganise the space so employees who need to be next to one another are close at hand.”

Plants are good. They not only clean the air and provide acoustic benefits, but sometimes also create privacy.

Vacant offices can be turned into quiet rooms for confidential conversations and focus work.

“Alternatively, turn your meeting rooms into library zones when not in use.”

Mabaso says: “Are the basics, such as lighting, air quality and temperature control, acoustics, ergonomic chairs and desks and safety and security,in place?

“You can’t expect to improve appeal if these are not. A fresh coat of paint can go a long way to livening up a space. Consider writeable wallpapers or paints as well – these are great for encouraging brainstorming and interaction.”

Good coffee is a “huge drawcard” for people in workplaces.

“To make meaningful change in the office it is important to engage workplace consultants who are experts in designing spaces with the end-user in mind.”

A survey titled What Millennials Want From the Workplace indicates workplace design and flexible working are priorities, says Linda Trim, director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap.

“Designers concerned with the war for talent will make efforts to accommodate the preferences of millennials because they are set to represent 75% of the workplace by 2025.”

The survey, which covered topics such as design, flexible working, workspace, wellness, loyalty, work-life balance and culture, made the following findings:

The single most important issue for millennials when it comes to the workplace is design, followed by the work itself, location and then colleagues.

  • 98% consider culture an important component of their workplace.
  • 95% believe that flexible working is important to their workplace experience.
  • 81% think workplace design has a moderate or high impact on day-to-day productivity, with 86% stating that well-designed common areas are important.
  • 87% felt wellness was important, while 80% of millennials now demand healthy food options in the workplace.
  • 75% felt that they had a good work-life balance, with 72% considering that their employer supported this balance.
  • Millennials are loyal, with 74% intending to stay with their current employer for three or more years, a finding that goes against the stereotype of this being a “job-hopping” generation.

Talent retention is also a key factor, with 87% wanting employers to be more transparent about growth prospects.

“The results are telling, and a wake-up call,” Trim says.

“The way people work and what is expected of an office is changing quickly. Businesses need to adapt to attract and retain the best talent and ensure their people are happy and productive.”


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