The Leader Magazine

MAR 2019

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18 March 2019 the leader evaluate workplace designs generated during the charrettes and based on study findings. With the aid of embedded capabilities of narration, environmental manipulation and real-time survey responses, the VR immersion enabled Gen Zers to report their preferences and feedback as well as validate proposed designs and workplace features. What we learned The research study generated four key themes important to Gen Zers: • Balancing connections to nature and technology • Using technology to facilitate connections, with people remaining at the center of problem-solving • Expanding safety requirements to include psychological safety and equity • Providing customization and control via choice-rich environments b alancing connections to nature and technology Gen Zers are recognized for their use of and reliance on technology, but they do not want to be defined by it. As the world continues to automate, there is a deep desire from this generation to incorporate the natural world into the workplace – 100 percent of focus group participants stated they craved a connection to nature, and 71 percent preferred a nature view over an urban view. This finding should be viewed in balance with other preferences around access to amenities and transportation, however; as 86 percent indicated that the office setting would impact acceptance of a job offer, the associative context does matter. Indeed, access to nature was a non- negotiable for Gen Zers. Incorporating nature into the workspace is good for all employees, research shows. The benefits of biophilic design are measurable and impressive: reduced stress, recovery from mental fatigue and enhanced focus, to name a few. Maximizing natural light, using natural materials, and incorporating plants and biomorphic form and pattern into spaces are a few of the ways to implement nature in the workplace to meet Gen Zers' basic needs. Using technology to facilitate connections While Gen Zers are fully integrated into the digital world – harnessing its potential and pushing tech forward – the inherent need for human connection remains strong. Gen Zers view people, not technology, as the key to problem-solving, building communities and feeling safe. An illustration of this preference occurred during the VR focus groups in which Gen Zers, when given a choice between a virtual or actual person reception experience, chose the actual person. In fact, 43 percent said they preferred a digital-free reception experience. Why? An actual person would be able to respond to a visitor's unique needs and create a sense of confidence and belonging upon arrival and throughout the day. This is key to engaging this new generation. Gen Zers see "connection" as multi-faceted, so the creation of spaces that foster face-to-face connection and multiple opportunities for spontaneous interaction and learning remain evergreen. Gen Z is accustomed to on-demand learning and will look for work experiences that facilitate the building of a self- curated learning portfolio. After all, this generation grew up with social media; it places a high value on individuality. The digital experience must work seamlessly with the physical one as Gen Zers view technology as an avenue for both connection and privacy. Balancing connection and privacy in workplaces will be vital to their success. Social relationships have always been a significant contributor to life satisfaction at work and was identified as a top priority by study participants. They look to the built environment to support, even facilitate, social relationships, but in a special way. Gen Zers want places for social gathering to be intentional rather than ambiguous. That is, they want to have places that provide an excuse for being there (e.g., coffee bar, meeting places to sign up for company events, steps for sitting and listening to presentations or lectures). They are less inclined to go to locations where they are by themselves or where they feel they have to explain themselves. Social prompts such as opportunities to contribute to the cultural fabric by leaving a "mark" or sharing stories will help this generation better navigate social settings. These strategies also support an expanded definition of safety, a prevalent topic in our findings. e xpanding safety requirements Typically, safety and security are regarded in the physical sense; however, this was not the focus for participants when asked to consider these attributes. Instead, Gen Zers incorporated mental safety into the equation. Thinking beyond the building when it comes to security to account for inclusion and psychological safety will be a telling characteristic moving forward. Remember, this is a SAP: Gregory Cortez, Cortez Media Group, Inc.

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