What Do Multigenerational Employees Want in a Work Environment?

multigenerational workplace environment
Photograph by Adam Auel courtesy of Capital One

Location, location, location?

It turns out the old real estate saying about the three most valuable qualities of a property may not be true for modern workplaces.

For employers wanting to attract today’s multigenerational employees, the mantra might now be design, flexibility and light.

This discovery comes from the results of Capital One’s 2018 Work Environment Survey, which asked 3,500 full-time office professionals across the U.S. to share their thoughts about the impact of workplace design and employee experience on their satisfaction, creativity and productivity at work.

Here are three of the survey results I found most interesting. In a future post I will share additional observations.

  1. All generations care about workplace design.

The survey found that two in three employees (66%) say that workplace design is as important, or more important, than workplace location. Perhaps not surprisingly given their exposure from a young age to media images online, Millennials valued design the most of any generation, with 42 percent saying workplace design is very important, compared to 34 percent of Gen Xers and 32 percent of Baby Boomers.

Why does design matter? According to survey respondents, our environment directly impacts the work we are being asked to accomplish in the 21st Century. Nearly 4 in 5 employees agree (79%) that companies cannot encourage innovation unless their workplace environment is innovative. This means a diversity of spaces for collaboration, quiet work, creativity and experimentation.

Key Takeaway: We can’t ask employees to adapt, innovate and disrupt without providing them an environment in which to think and behave differently. Think writeable walls, communal gathering spaces and inspiring art to inspire your team.

  1. All generations want flexibility.

Of course, most workers today will not be in their physical workplaces from 9am to 5pm as many of their predecessors were. We are in an unprecedented age of work location disruption, and Capital One’s survey found that members of all generations rank a flexible schedule as the top “perk” that would entice them to stay with a company.

And when they are in the office, they seek flexibility in their physical workspace as well. Thirty-seven percent of employees across all generations desire easily configurable furniture and spaces—think modular furniture, sliding walls and adjustable-height desks.

Key Takeaway: Think about how you can repurpose your existing space to offer employees more options. This doesn’t mean infinite offerings, but a variety of choices and support for the fact that work can and does get done in a variety of ways. One Capital One executive added a large table and chairs to her office so her team members can use the space while she frequently travels on business.

  1. All generations want natural light.

While many of the above design recommendations might come with a cost or require a change in culture, the final one is the least expensive, the easiest and the most important. Capital One’s survey found that natural light—that’s right; good old Vitamin D—was by far the number one improvement (at 57 percent) that employees would like to see in their current workplaces.

Key Takeaway: Raise the blinds and bask in some sunshine! Employees of all generations will thank you.

View the full results of Capital One’s 2018 Work Environment Survey.

Disclosure: I am an official #CapitalOnePartner.


Lindsey Pollak is the leading expert on millennials and the multigenerational workplace, trusted by global companies, universities and the world’s top media outlets. A New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her presentations have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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