Guest Blog: Corporate Culture, Younger Workers Changing the Face of the Modern Work Environment

Jennifer Wray

By Curtis Moody and Eileen Goodman

A new generation of workplace strategies are emerging for a new generation of workers. The shift not only is a response to changing corporate cultures, but a nod to the reality of recruiting-and retaining-top talent.

Corporate environments are following a revolution that occurred previously at tech companies and in educational spaces. For example, schools and universities today offer more common spaces as well as space designed for team collaboration. Open areas with natural light, outdoor learning areas, new technological tools, and modular walls and classrooms mark the new learning environment.

Similarly, corporate spaces today are evolving into something that would have been unrecognizable a generation ago:

  • More open spaces to foster collaboration and creativity.

  • Optimization of every square foot, leading to fewer private spaces and more areas designed for teams.

  • Natural light, which not only feels good, but promotes human health.

  • Outdoor areas that extend the office environment into green spaces.

Today, at least at some larger corporations, amenities abound. Look around central Ohio and you'll find employers offering high-quality cafes and fitness centers, dry cleaners, coffee shops and on-site childcare.

Two of the big game-changers have been new technology that cuts workers loose from stationary work machines, and a focus on employee wellness. In a wireless environment, virtually no one need be tied to a desk and PC-and a more comfortable work environment is, employers have learned, a healthier environment.

But another driver has been a new generation of worker that values these things and more. Millennials, in particular, are more apt to consider the work environment as one of their top priorities-often, above salary alone.

Employers are actively recruiting today's workers, rather than waiting for resumes to come rolling in. The job of competing for the best and brightest isn't completed with hiring-companies want to keep that talent, and one way is to make the workplace as inviting as possible.

In other words, the old rules are changing. What once seemed like truths, have been unmasked as myths. Here are five:

  1. The idea that every employee should have an enclosed workplace is fading. Workers today want to connect with their colleagues and collaborate on projects. They want more flexibility in how they work. And they are less concerned with the status a private office once conveyed.

  2. The notion that if you're not at your desk you're not working is also now known as a myth. When two individuals work together, innovation often results. This is important as the proportion of individual work continues to decline at most companies in favor of collaborative projects.

  3. Salary, while important, is not the overriding factor for younger workers choosing an employer. They want to experience a unique company culture and a flexible workplace environment.

  4. A company's brand is no longer seen as only relevant for customers. Recruitment and retention today has a lot to do with an employer's brand, and that extends to how the brand expresses itself in the architecture of the workplace. A company's brand is not just a logo; it's a promise that is expressed throughout the modern work environment.

  5. Workers today are less likely to want a firewall between work and life relationships. Employees increasingly seek a sense of community and wellness in the workplace, and how the work environment is built and used can mean the difference between a negative atmosphere and a place where community is found.

Two examples of these workplace design principles in action:

It's important to keep in mind that these trends need not break the corporate treasury. While not every company can afford a convenience store on site, every new work environment can be one where employees want to work and fulfill their professional dreams.

Curtis J. Moody is CEO and Eileen Goodman is partner and director of interior design for architecture firm Moody Nolan.