Catering to Different Work Styles

It’s now a thing to build a separate space within an office for Millenials. You can read the full thing for details, but the short story is an ad agency, in a bid to lure Millenial talent, created a space that only their young workers may use. I have a serious beef with this.

This seems like a terrible way to bridge the gap between work styles. While it might be perfectly legit to have a lively space and a quiet space, to call it “exclusive” for one demographic seems totally ageist, separatist and off the mark.

Demographically speaking, I fall at the tail end of Generation X. Some would say I’m a bridger, meaning a person who identifies with parts of my generation and the one to come after. Maybe it’s my bridginess, but I believe that presence and interaction aids in personal and cultural growth. We can learn from one another. The one who likes the quiet room might benefit from the energy of the collaboration space, while the one who prefers a social space might learn to exercise restraint and focus in a quiet space. I suspect many people, like me, crave different levels of interaction or solitude depending on current projects and workload.

At SmallBox, we have a large open room we call the Collaboratorium. Six of us have our permanent desk in there, and we have some large communal tables that are open for anyone to come work and collaborate. It’s often lively. It’s a very challenging space for some — the noise, the people walking in and out, the occasional dance interlude (which happens at least once a week).

For me, I love it. I put on headphones or just activate shut off mechanisms if I need to focus. We also have freedom to work from home or a co-working space, and I often tackle solo work needing long stretches without interruption at home in the morning before I come to the office.

There are plenty of ways to honor and cater to multiple work styles without this kind of alienating rule. Why not designate a collaboration room and a quite room, but keep them both open to one and all? If there isn’t space for that, then go with certain hours of the day, where morning time is for quiet focused work, and afternoons are marked for collaboration. Or create signals like a headphone rule. If a coworker is wearing them, it’s as good as a ‘do not disturb’ sign.

I absolutely embrace the idea of creating collaboration spaces in offices that get people out of a cube. It’s the “for millenials only” piece that makes my skin crawl. In an office like this, I’d be the one standing outside the glass, wishing I could play and mourning my exclusion, simply because I’m in my late-thirties.