Survey finds generational differences in workplace preferences

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Staples recently released its Business Advantage 2016 Workplace Index survey, which found that workers in different age groups have various levels of motivation and unique office preferences.

As Canadians have been continuing to work for longer in life, sometimes even into their 70s, employers  are having to deal with accommodating and managing five generations in the workplace, which can cause some issues.

The survey was conducted online among 1,995 employees in the United States and 1,110 in Canada by Morar Consulting in March 2016. Of the employees polled, a total of 1,404 were classified as general officer workers and 1,601 business decision makers.

The five generations, which include Generation Z (under 18 years old), Millennials (18 to 33 years old), Generation X (34 to 50 years old), Baby Boomers (51 to 70 years old) and sometimes even the Greatest Generation (over 70 years old) do share some similarities in workplace preferences, but they also have differences in their needs, which employers should do their best to meet.

“It’s important for employers to remember there are several generations represented in today’s workforce,” said Scott D’Cunha, vice president of marketing, e-commerce and communications for Staples Business Advantage Canada, in a press release. “While these generations do have much in common, there are also key differences and organizations must take these differences into account to ensure a happy and productive workforce.”

Burnout is an issue that concerns three generations: Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers, and it is quite prevalent among those age groups. Forty-one per cent of Millennials, 39 per cent of Generation Xers and 29 per cent of Boomers say burnout is a motivator to looking for a new job. To avoid burnout, Boomers and Generation Xers wish their employers would lower their workloads and provide more time to complete tasks, while Millennials would like to have more flexible schedules.

Forty-one per cent of Boomers are motivated by having a sense of purpose at work, followed by salary, making them the most motivated age group. This is compared to 27 per cent of Generation X and 23 per cent of Millennials that agreed with that statement. Gen X and Millennials, on the other hand, say their top motivator is salary. Generation X ranked a sense of purpose second, while Millennials listed passion for the job as the second most important motivator.

Millennials value the ability to work from home, which is where they feel the most inspired to work. However, they are the only ones – Gen Xers and Boomers prefer a traditional workplace and feel the most inspired at their desk in the office.

Office design is valued across all age groups, as all generations share the desire to work in a well-designed office. Forty-nine per cent of Millennials, 48 per cent of Gen X and 37 per cent of Boomers want their employers to pay better attention to office design and layout.

All three age groups value having plenty of natural light in the office, but Boomers and Gen X prefer to work in private spaces using ergonomic furniture, whereas Millennials prefer standing desks and lounge areas to work in.

Seventy-four per cent of Millennials, 64 per cent of Gen X and 51 per cent of Boomers appreciate the availability of a wellness program when looking for a new job, including having fresh foods available. Gen X and Millennials also look for fitness tracking wearables and onsite gyms when searching for a new job.

Although 41 per cent of Boomers feel they have too much work to take a break from their desk that is on the lower end of the spectrum, as 49 per cent of Millennials and 50 per cent of Gen Xers agree. Breaks are important to over 70 per cent of each generation, as they make employees feel more productive throughout the day. Employers can encourage workers to take breaks by providing comfortable break rooms equipped with snacks and drinks to allow employees time to relax.

“It’s promising that all generations said they think working in a five generation workplace is more fun, creative, inspiring, trusting and fosters an environment of learning,” said Jacob Morgan, author of The Future of Work, Futurist and Co-founder of the Future of Work Community. “Managing five generations poses a challenge for employers, and as Gen Z continues to enter the workplace in larger numbers, it’s critical for organizations to ensure they understand their workforce’s needs.”

See an infographic on the survey results here.

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