3 Main Reasons Millennials Are in Love with Open Offices

The Mad Men office does not appeal to millennials. That’s what the numbers tell us. As a millennial, I can also confirm this statement. Traditional office spaces, often characterized by cubicles and separate desks, are becoming less popular and coworking spaces are in. Indeed, the number of worldwide coworking spaces has more than doubled since 2014. The emergence of millennials in the professional world is driving this trend.

So what makes coworking and shared office spaces so appealing to millennials? Here’s three main reasons why.

Shared office space

1. It eliminates workplace hierarchy and fosters collaboration

Most millennials prefer to be their own boss and have a say in their work. According to a study by Intelligence Group, 72% would like to be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss, 79% of them would want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor.

Coworking and shared offices eliminate the walls and barriers that often divide people traditional office environments. These environment foster community, collaboration, and solidarity, rather than a competitive culture that often breeds animosity and resentment.

As a millennial working in an open office space, I can agree that this is one of the perks of working in such an environment. Although I held a junior position when I began my career, my input and contribution matter. Not only does this help establish myself as a professional, I also gain more experience this way. Eliminating workplace hierarchy also facilitates professional growth as people gain more experiences and insights through collaborating with a team of industry professionals.

2. It’s ideal for startups

Facebook, Snapchat, Uber: these are some of the words that come to mind when thinking about successful companies that began as startups. What these places have in common—asides from being the “cool” companies to work for—is their open office spaces. Why does this layout appeal to startups? Here are a few reasons:

  • It’s cheaper—Let’s face it. It’s expensive to start a business. Open offices and shared spaces offer entrepreneurs affordable spaces in which they can scale quickly and easily move around, and even rent out their desks. In fact, it’s estimated that open workspaces save between 10% and 40% of the total work area.

  • It attracts talent—88% of millennials want a collaborative work culture rather than a competitive one. Millennials want to work in an environment where they have ongoing training and feedback from working closely with peers. As well, they want to have more transparency when it comes to the company and its decisions.

  • The location—Shared office spaces are often located in tech hubs, such as Silicon Valley in southern San Francisco and Waterloo, Ontario (the Silicon Valley of the North). These locations are great for networking, finding like-minded people, and attending startup events, where entrepreneurs can pitch their businesses to investors. For instance, Velocity, a startup incubator at the University of Waterloo, offers students and alumnus a free open space to run their startups.

3. Work-life Integration

There is more to life than work. That’s why ping-pong tables, a giant slide, treadmills, comfortable and even Yoga classes are integrated in many open offices. In fact, according to Millennial Branding report, 45% of millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay.

Unlike the past where slaving away from 9 to 5 in isolating cubicles was the norm, large tech companies such as Google, Salesforce and Facebook recognize the need to accommodate people’s lifestyle in order to foster growth and productivity. Not only is this reflected in more modern office spaces and workstations, but many employees can now bring pets to the office or work remotely to make work fit into their lifestyle.

Salesforce Toronto office
Inside Salesforce’s Toronto office. Source: https://torontolife.com/city/life/inside-salesforces-tropics-inspired-toronto-office-spa-like-shower-rooms-tiki-bar-treadmills-built-phones/

Are open offices another fad?

Unlike crocs and high platform shoes, it looks like it’s here to stay—at least parts of it. Despite complaints about open offices and its lack of privacy and noise, on a whole, most millennials are in favor of the open work environment.

For those who argue that open offices inhibit productivity because of the distractions, there is also a case for a hybrid workplace. This kind of workplace combines the best of both worlds: quiet meeting areas but also an open workspace that fosters collaboration. In fact, many open offices are becoming hybrids, where employees can find some quiet time by booking meeting rooms and work remotely. Because these spaces offer this kind of flexibility, it continues to have its appeal among millennials.