Generational Preferences: A Glimpse into the Future Office

Generation Y as a Barometer of the Future Office

We live in an era in which office design is completely dominated by the worldview of the Baby Boomer generation. Their perspective is so dominant in the workplace that its influence has become invisible—like the air that surrounds us.

However, by 2020 Generation Y will comprise over 50% of the workforce (Carlson, 2009; Meister and Willyerd, 2010), while the proportion of Baby Boomers will decline to 23%. To properly support, and attract and retain Generation Y workers, companies will have to provide workspaces and facility programs that align with their needs and preferences.

Four Generations at Work

For the first time in history, there are four generations at work at the same time—employees with experiences and viewpoints that span seven decades of American life (see timeline in Figure 1) (Strauss and Howe, 1992):

  • Silent Generation: born between 1929 and 1945
  • Baby Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X: born between 1965 and 1978
  • Generation Y: born between 1979 and 1997

Recently, Knoll conducted research to gain empirical insights into these four generations at work, and in particular Generation Y. We collected survey data from close to 15,500 employees representing four generations, in 40 countries, on their ratings of the importance of six workspace features and capabilities. The results from this research provide a glimpse into the needs of the future workforce. This paper provides insights into how office workspace will need to be designed and furnished to support, attract and retain the emerging Generation Y.

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