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Welcome to the multi-generational office

Successful workspaces offer a mix of comfortable and healthy settings to suit the workstyles of a range of generations, says Pavel Trenka, chief executive of HB Reavis

How to lure the leaders of tomorrow, the so-called millennials, is preoccupying the minds of chief executives around the globe, we are frequently told. It is apparently what has prompted employers such as Google to create now-legendary workplaces resembling theme parks for grown-ups. Fancy taking a tube slide to exit the building or scooting along the office floor?

Yet moving forward, the workforce will continue comprising many who were born before the 1980s. Regardless of age, moreover, not everyone wants to play ping pong while brainstorming ideas. This won’t be lost on forward-thinking workplace managers and it means that many of the best future workplaces will cater for a variety of generations.

The quality of the working environment will be a key weapon in employers’ battle for talent

There is little doubt that the battle to employ the best people, whatever their age, has grown in intensity. KPMG’s 2016 Global CEO Outlook survey polled 1,300 bosses of companies across eleven industries in ten countries and found that 99 per cent are taking action to develop existing or future talent.

The quality of the working environment will be a key weapon in employers’ battle for talent. A recent survey of more than 155,000 employees worldwide found almost half feel their office environment stops them from working effectively. The survey by Leesman, a London-based workplace research firm, found that 45 per cent of office workers believe this and it is safe to assume that employees who feel this way about their workplace probably have itchy feet.

While the running tracks and cookery courses offered by the likes of Google might not suit every employee, the best companies will learn from the bigger idea about shaking up the workplace. They can apply many of the same principles, such as designing environments that cater for different workstyles, moods and tasks, and which foster wellbeing and productivity.

Our own office in Warsaw, Postępu 14, where 34,500sqm of grade-A office space also houses AstraZeneca and Samsung, is designed to ensure the wellbeing and effectiveness of the HB Reavis team. A variety of styles of break-out spaces support different tasks and ways of collaborating. There are also social spaces, such as a games room and an elevated area with beanbags.

Increasingly, the best offices are promoting wellbeing through measures such as a design that encourages employees to use the stairs, or the inclusion of plants – or biophilic design – which improve air quality and even the mental wellbeing of employees.

Our London office developments demonstrate this well. 33 Central, due for completion in 2017 and recently sold to Wells Fargo, is a light-filled island site featuring a quarter-acre rooftop garden offering panoramic views of London’s most famous landmarks. Equally, 20 Farringdon, a new office building in preparation, will offer six external terraces. It will provide 142 bicycle spaces and prompt people to “ditch the lift” via double-width interior stairs, which can be seen clearly from the reception area.

Looking to the not-too-distant future, the best offices will also increasingly harness digital technology and data to produce an environment that better meets the needs of occupiers. By knowing who is in the building, where they are, and their preferred lighting and temperature conditions, technology can improve the workplace experience for staff members – and potentially reduce heating bills.

The most successful future workspaces will offer a rich mix of experiences, comforts and settings in which to work in order to cater to the workstyles of a range of generations, while keeping them healthy and productive.

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