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23 Nov 2018

How the Millennial generation is ushering in a more open and connected workspace

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The team at commercial fit-out and refurbishment specialists ThirdWay is 90 per cent millennial and growing fast. Founder Ben Gillam gives us an insight into how to cater for this demographic and what he thinks makes for a successful workplace

The team at commercial fit-out and refurbishment specialists ThirdWay is 90 per cent millennial and growing fast. Founder Ben Gillam gives us an insight into how to cater for this demographic and what he thinks makes for a successful workplace.

Your team is almost 100 per cent millennial – how does this influence the workplace?

It’s more apparent than ever that millennials are spearheading change in the workforce, so to have a team that is dominated by that generation has shaped how we work and contributed to the success of our business. My own experience of leading a millennial team is that the younger generation likes collaboration rather than hierarchy, experience over ownership, a career that is built on principles rather than simply promotions.

We hold an employee-led team meeting every Thursday afternoon where we share successes, learn about other areas of the business and encourage socialising among the team, nurturing friendships and ensuring a positive team ethos. We have done this since the very beginning, when I founded the Group in 2009, and attendance is non-negotiable.

Despite the fact we now have 150 attendees instead of five, the format remains the same and continues to be a massive part of our culture, week in week out. Being so ‘millennial-heavy’ means it can get a bit lively, but all employees stick to a strict code of conduct, which is to have fun but behave like adults.

Millennials have grown up in a technology-led society – does this positively or negatively affect the design of a workplace?

The negative effect of technology is that it makes it hard for people to self-govern and switch out of work mode. The lines between being at work and not are becoming increasingly blurred. The positive effect of technology is the number of bespoke solutions it can provide and, with that, the feeling that anything is possible. It’s that sense of personalisation that we try to bring to our work when we’re designing for clients.

People of this generation are used to their phones or smart home devices being personalised to their likes, dislikes and behaviours – the workplace shouldn’t be any different. We produce design solutions to suit contemporary behavioural patterns and ways in which people like to work, enabling individuals to thrive.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to workplace design. Because of this, many companies are implementing smart technologies into their office design. These include cloud-based systems and diverse communication tools. Additionally, the use of portable laptops and mobile devices enable employees to work anywhere at any time, encouraging flexible working that can positively influence the productivity and happiness of employees.

The next step is to hardwire technology into design so that a future-proofed workplace can adapt swiftly and effectively to the introduction of new technological innovations.

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Corporate industries are implementing change in the workplace to meet the needs of millennials. How is your team adapting to this?

Corporate and creative environments are converging. We have seen a recent influx of more corporate organisations adapting to accommodate the needs of a younger workforce – Wikborg Rein is a great example.

This international law firm challenges the typically conservative style of a corporate workplace in its new London office. Traditionally, those in the legal sector work in cellular offices to reflect their demanding and often confidential style of working. However, Wikborg Rein wanted to balance tradition with some more contemporary workplace elements, introducing breakout spaces, booth seats and café tables to allow for flexible working and a more social atmosphere.

This change is largely driven by a greater awareness of staff welfare, and the knowledge that the working environment plays a massive part in employee wellbeing and therefore attracting and retaining talent.

How does your business attract and retain the best employees?

At ThirdWay, culture is at the core of our business; we are always focusing on positive change to encourage an environment that inspires employees to work hard and achieve. Our office reflects this in its design, with a mix of open and enclosed space that gives our team the choice and ability to work alone or together.

We also organise team-building events and take the time to celebrate success together. Our team is given an extensive set of benefits that includes free healthy meals, free fruit, on-site exercise classes, access to other employee-led social societies, private healthcare, monthly massages, weekly meditation classes, an annual team-building holiday, exclusive retailer discounts and access to mental health care.

We nurture our team members from their very first day at ThirdWay, and always ensure their goals are aligned to both their personal ambitions and the goals of the wider business so we can attract and keep the best people in the industry.

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