How to build workplaces fit for Generation Y

Google spent substantial sums renovating its office in Central St Giles

You don’t need the budget of Google to ensure your office attracts new talent.

The UK population is ageing, and as older employees edge closer to retirement, the less influence they will have on how the workplace of the future is shaped. Instead, it is Generation Y – those under the age of 35 – who are defining what the offices of the future will look like, and where employers choose to locate themselves so they are near amenities that appeal to this demographic.


Employment has been going from strength to strength and now stands at record levels according to the ONS. But while the jobs market has strengthened and the number of people in work has risen, real terms wages among Generation Y are now lower than they were in 2001.
Traditionally, employers have been able to rely on rising wages to play the main role in staff attraction and retention. But with pay packets increasingly squeezed, companies are having to use other methods to attract a talented workforce. Key to this is offering a workspace and work environment that matches the expectations of a demanding generation.
In recessionary times, the strategy behind a company’s office location, internal fit-out and day-to-day management is focused on ensuring costs are kept to a minimum. As recent research from CBRE tells us, for the first time since the start of the recession, office occupiers are prioritising talent attraction and retention rather than cost management when it comes to their workplace strategies.


As Google has recently shown with the extensive refurbishment of its newly-acquired Central St Giles site, a new office development can be finished to a modern Grade A standard but still not be fit for tomorrow’s marketplace. Not all businesses have the resources of Google, and therefore don’t have the option of designing a bespoke workspace. As a result, landlords and property owners need to think about the future of the workplace in order to attract businesses to their sites.
Technology is paramount. Access to fast internet and effective WiFi – not just at desks but throughout an entire building – is now an expectation. Flexible working space is also a key requirement for this demographic.


But success in this area is about more than simply having breakout areas and shared desk space for collaboration with colleagues. It’s about having the flexibility to nurture the needs of businesses as they grow – something that landlords such as Urban Splash and Derwent London do extremely well.
Transport links are also crucial in out of town sites. Generation Y drive less than their older peers and therefore want a place of work that is easily accessible – whether it’s near to residential areas popular with this demographic, or serviced by frequent and fast transport options. Access to amenities such as gyms, shops, bars and restaurants is another important piece of the puzzle when new office space is being developed.
Gone are the days of simply providing a canteen and a car park. Businesses need to be ahead of the curve in offering a holistic environment rather than just a physical location. With the global competition for talent, employers cannot afford to be left behind.
Richard Williams is managing director of asset services at CBRE.

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