From Lori Mabardi
New England Director of Research
JLL recently hosted its annual Perspectives Event for the New England commercial real estate community at the ICA in Boston’s Seaport District. Our keynote speaker this year, Ben Breslau, Director of Research for the Americas, challenged us all to think about the tug between workplace and workforce.
It is true that millenials are a driving force in our economy today. The average age of the millenials is 24, hence, many of them are recent entrants into the workforce. By 2020, 50% of the workforce will be millenials. In a live poll of the audience, we learned that 61% of them felt that the millenial generation is the most significant demand driver in workplace design and use.
With this result, Ben reminded us that it is not youth that is the most prevalent trend in America and the world, in fact, is aging. The average American worker is 42.5 years old, over 36% of CEO’s are over 55 and each year, and the retirement age keeps creeping up more and more.
When you look across traditional industries, many are multigenerational. Financial Services, the split is 26% Millenials, 45% Gen-Y, and 29% Baby Boomers.
When employers focus entirely on creating a work environment for one generation, they may be alienating a significant portion of their workers. What one generation values the other does not – and often, it’s quite the opposite!
Now, yes, many high tech firms are young and have embraced benching and highly dense environments because most of the workers are in their twenties. But even in the youngest firms, we have seen the pendulum swing too far towards the collaboration side in the “concentration-collaboration” spectrum and in those cases, absenteeism rises significantly, putting a damper on the anticipated collaboration and innovation.
Firms need to strike a healthy balance in order to maximize productivity and create a space where workers do their best work without sacrificing culture, brand and overall employee satisfaction. The conversation has moved from an economic one to a socio-economic one.
As it relates to the hot topic of downtown Boston vs. Boston’s suburbs, what became clear is that both office locations can win. Buildings, whether in the city or in the suburbs, that have a sense of place, are those that are likely to be desirable and well-leased. Buildings that are vibrant while providing a quality of life and access to amenities outperform the rest, no matter where they are located. And while Millenials are living downtown longer, they too find that as they age, they will choose the suburbs to raise their children.
So, as commercial real estate professionals, investors, CEO’s and city planners, we must remember to take a longer view of things and not to get caught up in the buzzwords and headlines. Don’t assume the trends will work for your people, think about your employee base and ask them what they need out of a workplace to strike the right balance for all.
To view Ben’s full presentation from our Perspectives: Workplace vs. Workforce event please click here.