Johnson Controls survey shows Gen Y wants green, flexible offices

by Rebecca Walker — May 26, 2010—The 18- to 25-year-olds just entering, or poised to enter, the workforce aren’t likely to be satisfied with shared “hotel-style” desk assignments, drab cubicles or windowless spaces that have characterized offices in the past, according to research from Johnson Controls that could strongly influence space and energy efficiency strategies in the corporate world.

The study has serious implications for the workplace. The workplace itself will have much more influence than ever for the type of workers it will attract and retain. Generation Y sees the workplace as a place of learning and development, and wants access to their own desks rather than desk-sharing or hoteling. There also are differences found among the different countries surveyed.

The highly educated, mobile and tech-savvy age group that falls within the demographic band known as Generation Y wants a workplace that’s like them: urban, flexible, collaborative, environmentally sensitive and unconventional.

They want an office and a work culture that’s an extension of them and their home life — a place that supports what they value — and it better be green, according to the study.

The study is aimed at providing the first look at the workplace expectations of Gen Y. With Baby Boomers retiring and millions fewer in the younger generations to replace them in the workforce in the U.S., U.K. and Western Europe, employers are trying hard to understand what makes Gen Y tick, notes Johnson Controls.

Given their preferences for elastic schedules and multitasking, Gen Y’s workday may span longer hours or pack in more activity. They want their jobs to be in urban areas, and they want snack and coffee bars on site and clubs, cocktail bars and gyms nearby.

They also don’t want to work from home, and do want offices that support collaboration, productivity and creativity, according to the report.

Some of the key findings for Gen Ys in the United States and the United Kingdom are highlighted below (the largest differences between the U.S. and U.K are shown in italics):

  • Location
    – Prefer to work in an urban setting: 79% (U.S.); 73% (U.K).
    – Prefer only natural light: 48% (U.S.); 48% (U.K).
  • Trave/b>
    By car and via a hybrid, respectively: 51%, 34% (U.S.); 34%, 30% (U.K.).
    – Cycling: 7% (U.S.); 12% (U.K.).
    – Motorcycle or scooter: 9% (U.S.); 7% (U.K.).
    – Public transport: 15% (U.S.); 16% (U.K.).
    Walking: 18% (U.S.); 30% (U.K.).
  • Top three priorities when choosing an employer
    • United States
      – Meaningful work
      – Quanlity of Life
      – Work Colleagues

    • United Kingdom
      – Work Colleagues
      – Opportunities for Learning
      – Meaningful Work

The report concludes that:

  • Employers will find it nearly impossible to deliver on all demands of Gen Y staff.
  • Success will be about compromising and determining the essentials.