The office is a continually changing environment in the 21st century with its increasingly diverse workforce. Changes in society and technology have shaped the new generation of employees in different ways to those far more experienced in the world of work, and this means that what makes one age bracket more productive might not be the same for another. We all have our own set of factors that make us better at getting work done, but this can become an issue if it’s detrimental to others.

Recently, there has been growing talk about the rise of millennials in the average workforce. This generation – which is considered to have been born around the 1980/90s – was brought up in an age where technology was making great leaps and is therefore a lot more familiar with the use of computers and the internet. As these young adults now enter their twenties and thirties, they prove to be a prominent feature in offices worldwide.

However, just because millennials are now entering the job market, it doesn’t mean that they form the core population of the workforce. The continual rise in retirement age and overall improvements to healthcare has led to an increase in the presence of older generations in the work environment, particularly in the form of less physically-taxing jobs like those based in offices. The World Economic Forum (WEF) suggests that the proportion of over 65s will almost quadruple in the next thirty years, by which point the exponential growth of the population will mean millions more young people also in need of work.

These figures, while also suggestive of serious issues in terms of resources and unemployment ratings, show that the average office is set to continue being a diverse place for many years to come. That in itself is a great thing, but with such a stark difference between the older and younger generations, employers have to make sure that what their offices provide is enough to keep all of their staff productive.

For instance, millennials generally prefer to work in an office which is technologically superior and offers them the kind of comfort they can find in their own home. Places with more modern, creative designs are particularly attractive, especially if they boast relaxation areas like roof gardens and chill out zones that can help keep them stimulated. The social aspect is also important for this generation of workers who enjoy forming meaningful connections with their colleagues which can extend outside of work.

Although the only offices where these attributes are predominant are ones where the entire staff is in a younger age bracket, elements of this need to be present in all workspaces in order to entice millennials to the job. However, the older generation, who first found employment when features like this weren’t given consideration, are a lot less accustomed to this untraditional style of work environment, so it can’t play too large a role.

What’s more, with this generation being in their later life, there are potential health concerns that may crop up and require the workplace to be appropriately customised. Decreased circulation comes with age, as does weaker eyesight and hearing, all of which can be detrimental to productivity in the office. Factors like this can be easily dealt with, such as turning up the thermostat, but this may have a negative effect on others.

Finding a solid middle ground is hard, especially when not everyone can be neatly categorised. There are plenty of people born in the 80s and 90s who don’t bear the stereotypical characteristics of a millennial, just as there are people in their sixties who can be extremely fit and healthy. Plus, what about those who sit in the space between these two age groups? We all work so differently that it’s impossible to have one design to suit everyone.

In a way, employers might benefit from handing some control over to workers themselves in order to ensure that the environment is suited to their specific needs, but even then it would be hard to keep everyone satisfied. They’d probably be best making sure that there are at least multiple spaces in the workplace devoted to various purposes; a place for quiet work, somewhere for relaxation, another area for social interaction.

Whatever the decision, it’s something that many employers will need to start considering as this blend of age groups starts to become more apparent. 


James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.
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