Alex Edds: Workplace Transformation and the Next Generation Employee

With the average workforce in 2020 said to comprise 35% millennials, 35% Generation X, 24% Generation Z and only 6% Baby Boomers, Alex examines the big challenge for businesses, and the implication for the real estate industry, when it comes to workplace transformation – how to accommodate for a diverse workforce with varying working styles and needs?

When thinking about this title, it got me thinking about my typical work day. The problem is, I don’t have one. And perhaps that is the point.

I have a lot of meetings. It comes with the job. But I try to combine as many meetings as I can into two working days (although it rarely works out that way) so that I can keep other days free. I work from home at least once a week which is my time to focus on getting things done. That said, with the ease of video conferencing, I’d say about half my meetings are online – so in reality I conduct meetings from the office, home, café or train.

The point is, for me, the office is a place to meet. Not just organised meetings with colleagues, clients or suppliers, but impromptu meetings – in the café or in the breakout area. These interactions are crucial – perhaps more so for a role like mine than others – and allow me to build relationships, network and keep my ear to the ground of what’s going on in our business. Vital.

When I’m in the office I spend very little time at a desk typing on a keyboard. I do that a home. Which I might add is not really fit for purpose as I don’t have the right furniture and space…cue home office rental services.

But am I usual? Is my work pattern typical? Probably not. But there in lies the big challenge for businesses – how to accommodate for a diverse workforce with varying working styles and needs?

According to ManpowerGroup[1] the average workforce in 2020 will comprise 35% millennials, 35% Generation X, 24% Generation Z and only 6% Baby Boomers. Deloitte also found that there will be a 37% increase in contract work, 33% increase in use of freelancers and a 28% rise in the use of ‘gig workers’[2].

If you think about the needs and wants of all these different groups, added with the variety of job roles that will make up an organisation, it becomes clear that workplaces need to look and feel very different, and be far more flexible to change on a regular basis.

This has huge implications on the real estate industry. Not least for the developer who has to decide what to build and where. The fit-out needs to be adaptable and probably updated regularly – which is perhaps good news for designers, but on the other-hand is likely to see more frequent smaller updates rather than one-off grand openings. The landlord, and by extension the management team of an office building, need to plan for this flexibility – not only in the lease – but also in the amenities and services provided to tenants. Traditional corporates may have been happy with a security guard and sufficient toilets. No longer. Businesses want their offices to help attract the best talent and clients. They need to offer amenities and services – from yoga classes to cooking lessons.

We’re already seeing owners and managers equip their buildings with amenity and community ‘apps’ to engage building users and provide a mobile friendly user experience to interact with the physical environment.

We’re only at the start of this journey and I expect to see huge growth in the services and science to support healthy and productive workplaces. There will no doubt be winners and losers as tastes change and evolve, but the absolute certainty is that employers need to think of their workplace as a physical symbol of their corporate identity and ensure it continues to evolve with their business.



Alex Edds

Alex Edds

Alex is Director of Innovation at JLL. His role includes advising JLL UK on strategic and systemic innovations to improve business processes. Alex is responsible for identifying and establishing partnerships and building networks of experts to support innovation for JLL clients - including transactions; asset and portfolio management; retail, logistics, smart buildings and smart cities, design and construction and workplace.