Millennials are changing not just where work gets done but how it gets done—and that includes the workplace itself. Your office speaks volumes to your corporate culture and can be key to attracting up-and-coming talent. When designing a workspace Millennials will love, think “competitive collaboration.”
“Millennials thrive on competitive collaboration. With this in mind, companies have redesigned their spaces with open, transparent working environments where employees are able to observe their colleagues’ activities — including who’s stepping up their game and out-performing them,” writes Robert Barrett for FacilityExecutive.com.
First and foremost, this means ditching the cubicles and isolated meeting rooms. “With Millennials, more and more work is accomplished in a group setting than by the solitary worker sitting in an office. As a result, personal workspaces are shrinking, while areas for group working are increasing and the décor improving.” writes Barrett.
Technology is key to making these new workspaces effective. “[Workers] are looking for inspiration and creativity at work, as well as human-centered technology that makes life easier instead of more complicated. Designers saw this shift starting years ago, but now we’re in an accelerated evolution and those ideas are being embraced and adopted at a rapid pace,” says James Ludwig, Global Head of Design for Steelcase.
A primary example is video conferencing. While Millennials demand flexibility in where they work, they’re also unlikely to tolerate being brought into meetings on audio only (how often do you forget that that person on audio is even there?). Barrett acknowledges, “Conference calls are morphing into face time on Skype.”
To avoid non-secure, non-scalable video conferencing solutions from sneaking into the workplace (i.e., shadow IT), equip workspaces with intuitive, integrated video conferencing solutions that are conducive to the type of work being performed there. For example, meeting rooms should be equipped with cameras that feature presenter-tracking technology so that they automatically focus on individual speakers and move to a wide angle when multiple people are speaking. They also feature noise-blocking technology to prevent presence disparity from distracting participants.
Large workspaces should allow meeting participants to converse as naturally as possible. In an open environment, RealPresence Centro allows participants to gather as if they are meeting around a campfire. The 360-degree camera sits in the middle of the room, enabling folks to sit, stand, and walk around the room without ever worrying whether they’re still on camera. Everyone can see each other equally so collaboration comes naturally.
It’s also important for participants to be able to share content in real-time. Polycom’s Pano allows up to four people to push content onto the screen in the room (using their preferred wireless protocol) to compare and build on ideas side-by-side. And the infinite whiteboard on Pano means the conversation is quite literally limitless. Everything can be saved to a folder in the cloud for further collaboration.
Finally, a video conferencing solution should take into account that workers are mobile—even when they’re in the office. “With the amount of square footage per desk shrinking, designers are incorporating ideas such as desk sharing, free desking, and benching. With the mobility inherent in today’s technology, an employee can sit down anywhere and get work done,” writes Barrett.
Working independently doesn’t negate the need to occasionally connect with others, often ad hoc. That’s where wireless technology coupled with desktop and mobile applications like Skype for Business and Polycom RealPresence Mobile come in. From anywhere in (or outside!) the workspace, employees can easily collaborate, face-to-face with in-office or remote working peers.
Designing a workplace for Millennials and competitive collaboration means tearing down the walls that have traditionally kept workers isolated in a single space for a large portion of the workday. Even as you open up the workspace to allow employees to move, interact, and compete with one another, be mindful of their need to connect as easily and naturally as possible with anyone, anywhere in the world.