To Court Millennial CEOs,
the Open Office May Have to Die

istock-505046041-compressorThat’s probably why some 70% of Americans work in offices with open floor plans, according to the American Facilities Management Association.

But if businesses want to attract the CEOs of the future, they may want to consider erecting a few walls.

Nonprofit research group the Conference Board and consultancies RW2 Enterprises and DDI wanted to know more about the predilections of young business leaders. They worked with 14 American organizations to prepare a new report: Divergent Views/Common Ground: the Leadership Perspectives of C-Suite Executives and Millennial Leaders.

“Though millennial leaders embrace team-oriented work environments … they think excessive openness generates distraction and makes privacy and concentration virtually impossible.

Among various other findings, they discovered that young leaders placed less value on excessively open work spaces than older CEOs perceived they did.

“Though millennial leaders embrace team-oriented work environments … they think excessive openness generates distraction and makes privacy and concentration virtually impossible,” the report’s authors said.

They also discovered that millennial leaders placed a higher value on interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence than their more senior counterparts, who were more likely to value critical thinking, business know-how and managing stakeholders.

If an office space is already complete, they recommend offering flexibility in the way millennials get their work done. This could mean using open spaces for team collaboration sessions but reserving enclosed rooms to offer them some privacy. “Setting clear expectations around performance can enable employees to be accountable for how their works gets done,” they said.

Companies embracing such initiatives, however, may be left hoping for a bounce in millennial productivity to cover any related rise in overheads.

A study published in 2010 by Leeds University in England found higher office densities allowed for “substantial savings” in either rental, land or build costs and lower heating, ventilation and security charges.

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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