designing for generation z
24 May, 2024
Designing for Gen Z: creating spaces that appeal to young professionals
Every generation has a set of general characteristics that have come to define its members.

Baby Boomers are often described as workaholics but are earmarked as having the most disposable income; Gen X are known for their independence and entrepreneurial mindset; Millennials are the first digitally native generation who graduated into recession, and now Gen Z is making its name.

Having burst into the job market in self-aware style, this is the generation born between 1997 and 2012, they currently make up around 38% of the global workforce, a percentage that will rise to about 58% by 2030 according to PwC.

designing for generation z

What are the key Gen Z characteristics?

As with all generations, Gen Z has its own unique profile when it comes to generalised characteristics and their relationship with the workplace. Many of its members entered the workplace during the Covid-19 pandemic, establishing the early part of their careers in a remote environment and never meeting their colleagues in person.

They are the up and comers in the workplace, reportedly known for being ambitious, digitally savvy and deeply passionate. They’re highly socially and environmentally aware, like in-person interactions, value flexibility, are competitive, entrepreneurial and are less tolerant of authoritarian environments than their predecessors.

They typically place a high value on diversity and inclusivity – not that other generations don’t, but their outlook is distinct from their Millennial counterparts whose world view was shaped by 9/11 and the 2007/2008 economic crisis.

PwC writes: “As the pandemic took its toll, some businesses froze hiring. Others that did recruit were forced to let people go, as business came to a standstill. Employees lucky enough to hold down a job have had to grapple with remote working and missing out on the hands-on mentoring, training, orientation and assimilation that in-person work provides. With schools closed or operating remotely, the daily interactions and assurances that school provides are limited. For this generation, it can seem as if disruption is the new normal. Employers need to keep this context in mind as they interact with and empower Gen Z workers, who also have qualities and attributes now that make them well-suited to dynamic, fast-changing environments, opportunities and challenges.”

Key characteristics of Gen Z include:

  • They are adept with technology – often without having boundaries between the two.
  • They have a culturally diverse mindset.
  • They adapt easily to different ways of working (but remote working means structured mentoring is key)
  • They are attracted to flexibility in the workplace.
  • Their entry into remote working can make it harder for them to cultivate in-person relationships, respond to feedback or manage mental wellbeing.
  • They’re comfortable with remote relationships.
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Why do businesses want to attract Gen Z?

In the long term, Gen Z is obviously going to dominate the workforce. However, they also bring skills to the workplace that other generations don’t have. Their fresh outlook, digitally savvy nature, and their mindset which reflects that of their consumer peers, are all important to have reflected within the team.

For businesses seeking long-term sustainability, this diverse generation is not only important for the talent pipeline, but to keep your company outlook fresh in a world of rapidly emerging industry disruptors and growing competition.

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What does Gen Z want from their workplace? 

Amongst all their other characteristics, Gen Zs are the poster children for a healthier work/life balance and meaningful ethical and sustainable practices in the workplace. With the groundwork laid by millennials, who are now rising into positions of management, this is a generation unwilling to work all hours of the day. This is central to how businesses begin to design their workplace and their working structures, attracting and retaining young professionals within their teams in a world of competitive recruitment.

Ethics, variety, flexibility within the workplace infrastructure and enabling autonomy are generally attributes that are attractive in the modern workplace. However, they also happen to be characteristics that appeal to Gen Z. Furthermore, where previous generations might have accepted cursory efforts towards ethical values, Gen Z vote with their feet (and sometimes their social media accounts). In the 2023 Deloitte Global Gen Z and Millennial survey, feedback from 14,483 Gen Z and 8,373 millennial respondents across 44 countries, it said:

“For values-driven generations like Gen Z and millennials, the ability to drive change on social issues has the potential to make or break recruitment and retention efforts.” 

Climate change was a major factor for millennial and Gen Z employees: “Over half of Gen Zs (55%) and millennials (54%) say they research a brand’s environmental impact and policies before accepting a job offer. One in six Gen Zs (17%) and millennials (16%) say they have changed jobs or sectors due to climate concerns, with a further 25% of Gen Zs and 23% of millennials saying they plan to do so in future.” 

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How to create a workspace that attracts young talent

Taking this information into account, the important thing to recognise about Gen Z and what they want from the workplace is that it’s aligned with what they want from life in general. Their values are not defined by the proverbial workplace walls, and they include:

  • Individuality
  • Inclusivity
  • Diversity
  • Wellbeing
  • Sustainability
  • Autonomy

These are core values that drive their world view and therefore their expectations of the working environment. While these are in many ways cultural, they are also values that can be quite literally built into the workplace, helping to create and drive behaviours and practices, as well as showcase an organisation’s commitment to its people and the planet.

At Maris, our design process is based on these deep-rooted and often complex considerations about the team and the working environment as a whole. From empathy with different wants and needs to practical considerations for disability, neurodiversity, wellbeing, religion and sustainability, these are the considerations that underpin our designs and choices.

We also understand the modern working environment and are known for our ability to design for flexibility, supporting both the changing needs of the workplace, the practical, commercial requirements of the organisation, and the wellbeing of team members of all ages. We design with future proofing in mind, enabling workspaces that offer movement, company growth and changing workplace wants and needs.

From in-office coffee shops like our very own to maximising natural light, creating a variety of spaces for people to move around throughout the day, wellness rooms and more, we create workplaces that meet the needs of the businesses, but that are also designed to attract talent of all ages, including Gen Z.

Want to create a workspace that attracts young talent?

Speak to the team at Maris