The Leader Magazine

MAR 2019

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the leader March 2019 19 generation that has grown up with safety drills in schools and they are now wired to believe that these physical safety protocols are already in place in their work environment. Yet, in their mind, it may not be sufficient in providing the sense of safety required for wellbeing. Both physical and emotional wellbeing in the workplace ensures a well-rounded approach to safety. And, presumably, accounting for and providing mental-safety resources act as a deterrent to physical security threats. Gen Zers' expanded definition of diversity and orientation toward social justice has resulted in a heightened consciousness around inclusion and how participants viewed the relationship between equity and safety in the workplace. In both the breakout sessions and large group discussion, participants believed that the future office for Generation Z meant considering a place that welcomes everyone. This belief was consistent with thoughts around equity, which was defined as having equal opportunity or access to resources – a clear break from the approach of sameness in favor of recognizing the individual. Creating human-centric design fosters the empathy and equity Gen Zers want in the workplace. This can be achieved by the addition of natural light, transparency, openness and color – all of which are perceived as safer, according to study participants. Ensuring employees have access to human resources and gender- neutral bathrooms, and that site selection, amenities and design consider a broader range of abilities such as neurodiversity and cultural diversity, can increase the feeling of inclusion and safety. Providing customization and control While connection has been a recurring theme in the research, Gen Zers look to control when and how their connections occur. From on-demand learning opportunities to how and when information is shared, designing the workplace of the future should include choice-rich environments. Just as the boundary between digital and physical is blurred for this generation, we saw a similar blurring between privacy and connection in 100 percent of participants. As one participant explained, "Trust is at the core of privacy and connection; they must coexist." While privacy was valued, isolation was not: 64 percent reported a preference for transparency as opposed to partitions, regardless of material, between private and open spaces when given options within the VR environment. Layered over all of this was a desire to control or adapt spaces to support the personal needs of the individual or group. The curation of spaces that aid in connection and privacy may take the form of time schedules for "concentration hours" and "connection hours." These are workspaces with a private area and a social area, cleanly and acoustically separated from each other or with the capabilities imbedded through building automation. Workspaces that include areas where a variety of postures for working were often discussed in the focus groups. While these findings suggest mobility, we also discovered that the desire for personalization or even a "home base" should not be overlooked but rather rethought. Gen Zers want to have their own space, with 50 percent seeking an assigned space and 100 percent indicating that personalization is a must. t he challenge ahead To meet the wants and needs of this group demands new, thoughtful and intentional workplace design efforts to balance digital, human and biophilic elements. Does designing for nature dictate a shift to suburban settings as opposed to urban? Knowing that Generation Z is mindful of a workplace meeting the needs of other generations, is the equity- based approach equally important to those other generations? More research and data will be useful moving forward. Exploring more opportunities to engage participants in VR-aided designs, as well as working with other generations to see how they respond to workplace design ideas generated from Gen Zers, research will allow our team to approach the future more holistically and confidently. Sleep Number headquarters: Corey Gaffer Photography Cristina Banks, Ph.D., is director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces at UC Berkeley, leading a team of scholars and practitioners in innovative research projects on healthy workplaces. Caitlin DeClercq, Ph.D., is a core researcher at the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces at UC Berkeley, leading a study to identify workplace design features that promote positive psychological states in employees. Melissa Jancourt, CID, LEED BD+C, is a designer and strategist who co-leads HGA Work|SIGHT, HGA's national strategic planning group.

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