Designing for the Increasingly Complex Organization, Part II

In my most recent blog, I discussed the transformation of the workplace born of new technology, especially in communications. Another significant factor, though perhaps less obvious than technology, is diversity, especially generational diversity. For the first time in history we have three, sometimes four, generations of workers in the workforce, each with its own unique values. For years, the post-World War II generation known as “Baby Boomers” – those born between 1946 and 1964 – has been on center stage. It’s no surprise that marketers, especially in the furniture industry, have focused on these Boomers, given that they control three-quarters of the wealth in the U.S. with annual buying power of $1.6 trillion. Gradually, though, the makeup of the workforce has been dramatically altered. Generation X, the 60’s & 70’s generation, and Generation Y, sometimes called “Millennial Generation”, have joined the Boomers in today’s workforce. One way to illustrate the diversity among these groups is to look at the way they view work itself. Baby Boomers “live to work” and tend to define themselves by their jobs. The Millennial Generation “work to live” and place a high value on lifestyle. The generational differences regarding work attitudes, ethics, career choices and work patterns represented in the modern workplace is dramatized by a 56 year-old mother whose 24 year-old daughter came home days after college graduation with a great job offer. The mother’s pleasure and pride turned to shock when she learned that her daughter had turned down the offer. Her daughter explained that the company offering the job expected her to report to their office everyday and she just could not see herself going into the same office every day! It is our role as designers to guide those we serve by proactively planning for the functional needs these varying work styles manifest. Different styles and work modes must be integrated physically and networked technically to create a sense of organizational community around movement, knowledge, people and information. Emerging work styles and modes require attention on three dimensions: physical (the conventional office), virtual (Internet-based, computers, e-mail, smart phones), and collaborative (team, learning and social spaces). We are coming to realize that organizations may not need or want to support all work modes. What sort of “new office” best serves this diverse group of workers? How can the office be designed to maximize the synergy diversity can offer while minimizing the potential for dysfunction and conflict? What is the “true value” of the office? Please join the discussion. I welcome any comments and/or thoughts you may have……. Jill Mendoza

Comments are closed.