Workforce Blurred: Green Matters

This new generation has witnessed transformative societal changes in their lifetime; however, one monumental challenge that lies ahead for them is climate change. From rising sea levels to more frequent natural disasters and toxic air pollution, climate change presents a complex societal challenge that will require substantial effort from both individuals and larger entities alike.

Corgan’s recent report, Workforce Blurred, uncovered numerous insights on what freshly minted graduates and seasoned professionals looking for their next step are looking for from the future of work. The study combined quantitative data from more than 150 surveys and qualitative data from in-depth interviews with graduates across the nation and those making a career change to understand the preferences, needs, and expectations of the emerging workforce. Marked by a historic global pandemic accompanied by an economic downturn with high unemployment, those entering today’s workforce have been forced to quickly adapt to changing landscapes while wrestling with career anxieties. Thus, it is a ripe opportunity for architects and designers to respond with an empathetic, human-centric design that thoughtfully supports this incoming generation of workers.

These new workers recognize that while individual contributions to climate change can have a significant impact, they also believe a large portion of the responsibility is systemic and, therefore, driven by industry stakeholders. This will require businesses to make major changes, like offering and supporting cutting-edge green practices at the workplace. Additionally, this incoming generation of workers projects their personal identity — or personal brand— through the goods they purchase, the media they consume, and the social issues they feel passionate about. Where they choose to work is no exception. And a cutting-edge green workplace creates a future-forward identity they can relate to.

 



 

GREEN PRACTICES AND OUTDOOR SPACES


During in-depth interview sessions, participants explained that having cutting-edge green practices on-site makes them feel proud of where they work and what their company stands for. These green amenities don’t serve the traditional purpose of an amenity, in that, they are not just for individual use. Instead, these green amenities reflect a more significant social impact and the greater good. This mindset is best demonstrated by individuals who expressed interest in amenities like electric vehicle charging stations even when they don’t own an electric car themselves.

In our survey of 150 upcoming and recent grads, “outdoor green space” was the second most popular option for on-site workplace amenities, and “cutting-edge green practices” ranked as the fourth most popular option. In our survey, 42% of respondents preferred a campus office setting, and 76% selected green space and nature as a workplace asset they are looking for.

 



 

According to research participants, having access to greenery makes work feel “easier and more comfortable.” Outdoor green spaces allow them to make the most out of their often-limited break time, which is important to them. Research participants are also looking for walking trails and green areas to spend their time during the workday for things like walking meetings and brain breaks. Many participants also said the pandemic reminded them how effective an outdoor walk could be for recharging throughout the day. Others said it has always been an essential part of their daily routine.

 

IMPACT ON THE WORKPLACE


As the world becomes more interconnected and complex, it’s essential to consider the different ways in which people are interacting with and perceiving the built environment. With this new generation of workers, facilities with green design and practices will be an expectation. Companies should consider environmental impacts and promote green practices in all aspects of the organization like reusable serving ware, specific recycling practices, and electric car charging stations.

Organizations can provide an environmentally friendly work environment by incorporating green design features, such as natural light and water savings. They should also consider the wholistic impact decisions have, such as shorter commute times, reducing carbon emissions, or providing reusable coffee mugs to prevent waste. Products and design are only the start to green practices; companies need to ensure the right programs are implemented and staff is trained to maintain the intent.

 



 

Throughout this research, we heard from students of all backgrounds and interests. We learned that work is not just a place you go — it’s a thing you do. This next-generation workforce wants the right cultural fit and values organizations that holistically support their employees. As the workplace continues to evolve, we look forward to identifying new opportunities that support a 21st-century workforce.

 

Learn more about the insights from the study and what it means for the future of the workplace in our full report:


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