Millenials and the Alternative Workplace: The Future of the Commercial Real Estate Industry

At a recent NAIOP Massachusetts program, a panel of leading professionals discussed the changing workplace that is being driven, in part, by a new demographic – the Millennials.

As Martha (Marty) O’Mara, PhD, CRE, Managing Director of Corporate Portfolio Analytics, said about this influential category, “they are no longer our kids, but our co-workers.”

This shift is bound to have an impact as they enter the workforce, and Marty’s presentation outlined some surprising facts about this group:

  • Only 15% of Millennials (age 19-29) say having a high-paying career is their top priority.  They place parenthood (52%) and a successful marriage (32%) much higher.
  • 63% have graduated from college, or plan to graduate.
  • Most in the workforce have already experienced bouts of unemployment.
  • Only 61% grew up in a household with both parents.
  • 38% have a tattoo.
  • 8/10 sleep with their cellphone.

They are a powerful market driver and their communication and work style preferences (consuming “experiences” rather than “things”, for example) are already shaping the commercial real estate industry.   

Marty’s bottom line:  “Don’t let a Boomer make a real estate decision.”  More and more companies are recognizing this and designing an “Alternative Workplace” as they plan for the future.

In a short slideshow, Marc Margulies, Margulies Perruzzi Architects shared the key elements of the new Alternative Workplace:

  • Few/no high wall cubicles
  • Multiple workplace environments
  • Density at 165 RSF/person
  • Amenity-rich
  • Dynamic

A panel of experts including Marty and Marc, as well as Bob Richards of Richards Barry Joyce & Partners; Janet Nicholas of Dassault Systèmes; and Greg Lewis of Shire Human Genetic Therapies, then discussed what all of this really means.  

Highlights and things to think about:

  • The Alternative Workplace is designed to support diverse demographics and to be conducive to multiple work styles (mobility being an important element.) 
  • Producing a corporate community that increases productivity through collaboration and interactivity is accomplished through a dramatic change from the historically private spaces (individual worksettings ) to ”neighborhoods” (more collaborative community spaces).
  • The new term is “benching,” providing bench space that can be shared, moved, configured.  The amount of space per employee can change based on the users from a 1.3:1 ratio that efficiently utilizes vacant space due to normal absenteeism, to up to 3:1 for a group that has higher sales and/or consulting staff that travels.
  • Lastly the “town common” area has plenty of amenities.  Picture this as the Kendall Square within the company where different specialties come together as a community in a social, casual area.  These tend to be food oriented, nature focused, bright, and inspirational.

Many of these changes are already being seen in the new designs and renovations of firms throughout the region, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, according to O’Mara and the other speakers.  Big changes are on the horizon for anyone involved in corporate real estate, and those changes will create countless opportunities for the firms who are ready.

Did you attend Wednesday’s program? Share your key takeaways and questions in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “Millenials and the Alternative Workplace: The Future of the Commercial Real Estate Industry

  1. Marty O’Mara’s observation about Millenials’ consumption of experiences was the most significant “take-away” from this panel discussion for me. It reinforces our regional need to create a larger supply of affordable housing options close to our urban centers. This generation thrives on their access to the diverse activities available in cities. Coupled with the fact that urban settings are increasingly attractive to the Boomer empty nesters, and we’ve got quite a challenge on our hands!

  2. Great point. It will be excting to see the final design for Shire’s new space in Lexington. It seems they have really tapped into the millenials and are trying to incorporate some of the urban amenities into their new space that they are leaving behind in Cambridge.

  3. Great article and I agree with the above comments. The new generation prefers the urban living model where they can rent a zip car for $8 when they really need a car instead of commuting an hour everyday on 495. This generation prefers a different lifestyle where their work, grocery market and dry cleaners are all nearby, additionally as Richard Baummer points out above, this lifestyle will be more attractive to the older generations as well. I also wonder what this means for the traditional office park an hour outside the city?

  4. Pingback: The Multigenerational Workplace « Human Resource Blueprints

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