The multi-generational office

Posted in Germany on Tuesday, 10 July 2012. Print

ORGATEC presents solutions that meet the challenges of the labour market

The multi-generational office

More and more companies are facing the challenge of finding and holding on to qualified specialised personnel in the middle and long terms. That's because the labour market is constantly changing through shifts in demographics. According to the Federal Statistical Office, by 2060 every second German will be 65 or older. In comparison to 2008, that means there will be up to 34 percent fewer people of working age. Even though the year 2060 still seems a long way off, the consequences of the shift in demographics is already being felt in many companies today. The average age of the workforce is increasing, while at the same time fewer young qualified workers are reaching employment age. The often cited "war for talent" has already begun in some sectors. But what can companies do to attract young talent and hang on to experienced staff for as long as possible? How can workplaces be made equally attractive to both young and old colleagues? The answer is that appealing office and workplace concepts must not only help to attract and retain employees but also improve the productivity and creativity of those employees. However, separate areas for young and old don't have to be created. What's good for older colleagues doesn't hurt younger ones - and vice versa. Office solutions that are appropriate to the requirements of all employees will be on display at ORGATEC, the leading international trade fair for office and facility, from 23rd to 27th October in Cologne.  

Movement promotes good health, emotional well-being and concentration
Instead of prematurely easing employees out of the work process, it will be more and more important in the future to maintain their employability and to use what they have to offer for the good of the company. To achieve this, experts advise that employees should frequently change their position instead of just sitting passively in front of a computer screen, use seating-standing working tables for the change to dynamic sitting and standing, move about the room and plan good room acoustics. Employees both young and old profit from these measures, particularly because movement not only benefits health but also significantly increases levels of concentration. This notion is backed up by a field study of three-dimensional seating carried out by the German Sport University Cologne. The only differences between young and old had to do with optimal lighting intensity. In this case, the experts suggest at least 850 lux for older employees instead of the more normal 500 lux for individual work stations, as well as using an additional asymmetrical workplace or desk lamp to reach a total of 1,600 lux for the working environment. However, here again "too much" in terms of lighting, doesn't hurt - as long as there's no glare.  

Communicative and inspiring
On the other hand, the needs of younger workers must not be lost from view. That's the conclusion reached by the PricewaterhouseCooper study "Pro 50 - Arbeit mit Zukunft" (Work with a future). Members of Generation Y "[want] to have a meaningful job that offers them a variety of career and developments possibilities, an innovative working environment and, at the same time, makes it possible to have a balance between work and free time". That's probably why many well-known IT companies such as Google and Microsoft repeatedly cause a stir because of their offices, which offer a truly innovative working environment - coupled, of course, with cutting-edge integrated technology. What less spectacular concepts often have in common with these companies is that the working environment is staged in a way that creates variety. For example, generous - more or less unusual - communication zones, areas for informal interaction between colleagues and retreats for concentrated work and confidential conversations are provided. The aim is always to give inspiration to employees and encourage them to communicate with one another, while also promoting employee well-being. These aspects are valued by young and old workers alike. Such communication zones also provide an environment for interaction between younger and older colleagues, thereby facilitating the exchange of knowledge. A study conducted at the University of Exeter has confirmed that a pleasant working environment also has a positive effect on productivity. The study demonstrates the positive influence of individual office designs on well-being and productivity in the workplace. The researchers came to the conclusion that a pleasant workplace increases worker productivity by 17 per cent; in cases where the employees have decorated their own office environment, that increase goes up to 32 per cent. Companies are well advised to offer their employees an attractive working environment that will have a positive influence on their health and well-being..  

Customizing the work environment
Individual solutions for company-specific requirements that meet the needs of multiple generations and also special size and design requirements are now being offered by many office furniture manufacturers through "customizing". This makes "one size fits all" solutions passé. For example, furniture dimensions can be tailored to fit the existing space. Materials and surfaces increasingly reflect the wishes of the customer - for example, they can be based on the corporate design. This ranges from the choice of colours and imprinted front pieces to individual upholstery. You can  find information about all of these topics at ORGATEC in Cologne at the end October.


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