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Businesses urged to prepare for the ‘Y Factor’


acilities support specialist, Beacons Business Interiors (Bbi), is advising businesses to ensure their office space is able to

accommodate the Y Factor – that is the current influx and growing influence of ‘Generation Y’ workers.

The advice comes on the back of research from Bbi’s office supply partner, Steelcase, which reveals that, as Generation Y workers begin to replace the retiring ‘Traditionalist’ and ‘Baby Boomer’ generations in the workplace, they are bringing with them a shift in attitudes and behaviours. Generation Y, also known as

‘Millennials’, is the term used to describe the demographic following Generation X, usually referring to those born from between the 1980s and the mid-1990s. According to the research, called “Attracting and Engaging Today’s Workers”, Gen Ys’ influence has led to growing trends which include working on the go, proactive use of new technologies, constant switching between activities and continuous collaboration with colleagues. The study reveals that workers now also feel the need to develop their skills independently, rather than through formal training, and will actively assess whether a business’s vision and values match their own.

Bbi Group director, Simon Oldroyd, believes companies need to respond to this shift by adapting their workspaces and policies to attract the best and brightest employees.

“Gen Ys are the fastest growing segment of the workforce,” says Mr Oldroyd, “and, as their ways of working and expectations of the workplace are now being adapted by workers of all ages, they are influencing offices faster than any other previous generation.”

The study defines Gen Y workers as those who typically like high-intensity work, often use two monitors and keyboards, check frequently for feedback from peers and continuously collaborate with colleagues. They also have the ability to focus their attention intently on activities amid a chaotic work

environment, plugging in a laptop or smart phone and shutting out any distractions. The study also points to how Gen Ys have grown up having to manage a torrent of information from the Internet, mass media and new technologies – a diet which has made them very adept at effective multi-tasking – while social networking has become second nature to them.

Where workers once placed primary importance on a company’s size and history, the emphasis is shifting to how

Bbi’s top tips for bringing your workplace in line with Gen Y workers’ expectations:

• Consider how your office environment sends messages about your company’s culture through its colour, texture, finish, furniture and lighting

• Support emotional connections to the workplace by allowing workers to display and store personal materials and providing them with mobile work tools such as phones, laptops and easy to connect to wi-fi networks

• Promote sustainability by adopting use of energy efficient building practices and products

• Offer transparency by displaying and sharing vision, goals and

achievements and supporting digital media that streams content about your organisation and its culture

• Provide spaces that encourage feedback and mentoring of Gen Y workers – open floor plans, small

Building & Facilities Management – November 2011

team settings, collaborative space, lower panels between desks, as well as pairing them with older workers to encourage knowledge sharing

• Reflect work-lifestyle integration by supporting working from home, flexible workweeks, telecommuting and emerging onsite services such as fitness facilities, cyber cafes and relaxation areas

• Workspaces should be optimised for multi-tasking and quick switching between different activities

• Support collaboration by providing integrated team areas, in-between areas, and the ability for sporadic meetings at individual workspaces

• Design with technology in mind as Gen Ys desire continuous connection to people, the internet and information no matter where they are.

well the company can support a worker’s preferred work style, how quickly it can adapt to changing work and market demands, and how well it supports their work-life balance. Workers, according to the study, are now evaluating how much they can learn and grow in a job as closely as they examine salary and benefits. Mr Oldroyd continues: “Even in today’s tough economic climate where the unemployment pool is high, companies wishing to attract, engage and retain the best workers that will help grow their business will need to consider these emerging trends and, in some cases, dramatically change their workspace and operating culture.

“Businesses should begin to think about flexible workspaces that cater for different tasks, providing open, informal areas for collaboration and group discussions, as well as areas that allow workers to get away from noise and distraction to concentrate on heads-down, individual work.

“Your office needs to have an identity too, rather than being a bland environment, so this can mean considering everything from lighting, sound, spacing of furniture and use of materials. You should also think about displaying your vision and brand through digital media by streaming content through large monitor screens, or projecting it onto walls via a PC, or using wallpaper with digital imagery.

“Businesses should also address the blurring line between work and home life. We are increasingly designing offices to feel more like living room spaces, while onsite services like gyms are also becoming a more prevalent consideration. With employees increasingly connected to their work 24 hours a day, businesses should offer their staff flexi-time as well as the option to telecommute or work from home.

“By providing spaces and policies which reflect the expectations and needs of the growing Generation Y workforce, businesses can attract the best people and maximize the productivity of their staff, helping them fulfill their growth potential whilst also ensuring the creative development and growth of the organisation.”

For more information, visit or call 01874 623089.

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Office Horizons

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