SGA Interior Design Director Gable Clarke on Designing Multi-Generational Workplace and Why It is Important

Gable Clarke

BOSTON—Imagine a workforce of four generations–Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Generation Z—and all working in one office. What type of space would suit best to all these generations of workers under one roof?

Gable Clarke, director of Boston and New York based SGA’s interior design department, is a thought leader on the design of generational space. She provides solution-oriented, thoughtful guidance and direction throughout every aspect of the design process. She is also a Certified Generations Trainer.

Boston Real Estate Times will release a full video interview with Ms. Clarke on this topic on Tuesday. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, here is a quick summary from the video interview.

Boston Real Estate Times:  How and why did you become a Certified Generations Trainer?

Gable Clarke: Generations became a very popular topic over 15 years ago when millennials were entering the workforce in droves. I began conducting research and found a company called Bridgeworks in Minnesota. They specialize in generational insights and offer a train-the-trainer program.

I wanted to understand and interact more effectively with different generations as part of my day-to-day, and also leverage that insight to help create space that supports and facilitates positive interaction between generations.

BRET:  What generations make up today’s workforce?

GC: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Generation Z – people born between 1996 and 2010, they are the newest generation to enter the workforce.  [BB born between 1946-1964; X born between 1965-1979; M born between 1980-1995; Z born between 1996-2010]

BRET:  What are some key traits of the different generations?

A:  Boomers are very disciplined and polished, Gen X tends to be very independent and efficient, millennials are collaborative and adaptive. With Gen z there are still insights being uncovered but they are proving to be industrious and resilient.

BRET: How do the generations differ with regard to communication?

GC: There are several “clash points” between generations, one of which is collaboration. Being polished and disciplined, Boomers tend to be more formal – preferring a scheduled meeting to an impromptu conversation. Since they are more efficient, Xers want clarity and purpose to meetings. Millennials are very collaborative – comfortable with impromptu brainstorming sessions.

Gen Z wants to leverage tech to be collaborative – the idea of being  “alone together” such as working via google doc. Formality, Communication and Work Ethic are a few more examples of common clash points.

BRET: How might generational preferences translate into space?

GC: Providing balance and choice in the work environment remains key, allowing people to find a space type that supports the need. Also, embracing technology but facilitating human interaction. Gen Z has high expectations with regard to technology but due to less face-to-face communication than other generations, may be lacking in some of those soft skills. As a way to disconnect from the digital world (for Gen Z in particular), meditation rooms and tech free zones are an alternative.

Overall there is a high expectation with regard to workplace design and the idea of workplace as a destination. However it’s important for your space to reflect your culture. It’s not all about hot desking and kegerators!

BRET: Do you offer training sessions, and what does a session entail?

GC: Yes, I’ve given the training to a variety of organizations. The session is generally 1.5-2 hours and a lot of fun. We break down generational stereotypes, explore how different generations communicate, clash and connect, and walk away with a deeper understanding and level of empathy. Plus, there are prizes and music trivia!