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The Top 3 Things Gen Z Wants at the Office

August 10, 2021
  • Workplace

We’ve spent years studying how companies can successfully recruit and retain the youngest members of their workforce. Nearly a decade ago, we theorized that incorporating design elements from college campuses would help employers achieve this goal.

Since then, our collegiate design research has expanded to explore differences in workplace preferences across generations. For many years, we studied what millennials wanted out of the office. Now, we’re looking at the newest entrants to the labor force -- Generation Z.

Born between 1996 and 2010, Gen Z individuals have different needs and desires than their millennial counterparts. While millennials watched innovation begin, Gen Z was immersed in it from day one. They’ve become accustomed to college environments with seemingly endless places in which to work, study and interact with their peers.

We recently surveyed more than 500 Gen Z students from different institutions across the U.S. to gather their perspective on the workplace. Nearly 90 percent said that the physical attributes of a workplace would influence their decision to take a job there.

We also identified the top three things Gen Z students want in a workplace. 

1. An Established Home Base

The members of Gen Z spend much of their time in college moving around on campus, working in dorm rooms, libraries, cafés and even outdoors. So, it may be easy to assume they’d prefer a workplace without assigned seating, where they can work wherever they like.

However, we found that the number-one thing that members of Gen Z look for in a workplace is a “home base” that they can make their own.

Flexible workplace solutions can give young workers the freedom to create a personal workspace. Our Tattoo Collection empowers employees to change the layout of their workspace without taking up additional space or calling in facility managers.

2. Open Work Areas to Connect

Although Gen Z workers want a home base, they don’t want to feel cooped up. They crave large, open spaces where they can interact with other employees. Entering the workforce is a significant transition. Open work areas, like those seen in a student union or innovation center, allow employees to chat and build connections with one another.

Eighty-five percent of the members of Gen Z we surveyed said that having the ability to work in multiple spaces and environments is important to them. Large, open areas help employers facilitate a choice-based work model where employees have assigned workstations as well as various other spaces that support the four different work styles: focus, interaction, ideation and regeneration. 

3. Spaces to Collaborate

Our survey respondents identified collaborative spaces as their third-highest priority in a workplace. This makes sense, given that they ranked the library and campus commons as two of their preferred study spots.

Reconfigurable workspaces can help bring people together and engender new ideas. Our mobile Tattoo Slim Seating and MyPlace Lounge Furniture both support groups of various sizes while providing integrated power for charging devices.

Mobile, freestanding Connection Zone Screens with markerboard surfaces can facilitate brainstorming sessions or offer a place for employees to leave encouraging notes for one another as they pass by.

Show Gen Z They Matter

Our research shows that 90% of new employees are still “lost in transition” within 6-12 months of being hired, and lost employees are more likely to leave. Following trends in collegiate design will help you show your new hires that you value them by providing the workspaces they crave as they move from college to corporate.

How are you welcoming the next generation?


by Jonathan Webb  Director of Workplace & Healthcare Markets

Jonathan Webb leads KI’s strategic business units for workplace/private sector and healthcare. Jonathan studies workplace and healthcare trends, uncovers product gaps, and develops solutions with the KI team. Jonathan takes part in advanced workplace and corporate training strategies and documents his findings through white papers, articles, and other publications. His recent publications, Understanding Active Design: The Rise of Human Sustainability and Collegiate Design: The New Driver for Workplace Design, have put Jonathan in the media spotlight. Partnering with thought leaders like AECOM, his publications cover diverse subjects including sit/stand benefits, designing training environments, and defining work styles. Jonathan holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh School of Business and is a LEED-accredited professional.


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