Workplace Diversity from a Generational Perspective

Workplace Diversity from a Generational Perspective on

Generations X, Y, Z, and a few who came before, all impact our office spaces.

The challenges of the modern workforce are many, from how to integrate rapidly changing technology to how to effectively engage and motivate workers who come from a variety of backgrounds and who have diverse professional goals. This diversity within the workplace comes in many forms, but one constant is the fact that different generations of workers continue to be a key set of groups in the workforce. A recent paper by the office design and furniture company Allsteel, took a look at the different generations that are now commonly represented in the modern workplace and projected their influence in the future.


Also known as “The Silent Generation,” Traditionalists were born before 1946 and represent about 46 million people. They are “known for being hardworking, loyal, and patriotic, willing to sacrifice for the common good.” While these individuals have strong representation in the workforce today, the youngest members of this group are projected to be 75 years old in 2020, and thus are less influential on future planning and design of workplaces.

Baby Boomers

Surprisingly, the same generation that grew up on television and who are known as hippies also turned out to be “the original workaholics.” They are known as hard workers who put in 50-60 hours per week. Baby Boomers currently number about 78 million. While their representation in the workforce is projected to slip to about 15 percent by 2020, they will still be a significant factor in future office planning.

Generation X

Born between 1965 and 1976, Xers are considered “self-sufficient [and] independent thinkers” who place priority on “work-life balance.” This generation represented about 33 percent of the workforce in 2010 and will still make up about a quarter of all workers in 2020, giving them a say in any office designer’s future plans.

Generation Y

Otherwise known as the “Millenials,” this population of 88 million is technologically adept and “hyper-connected.” Born between 1977 and 1997, they are considered the first generation to grow up with the internet and digital media, they tend to believe in philanthropy and will represent about half of the workforce by 2020, making them a centerpiece of planning and design.

Generation Z

Born after 1990, this population of 49 million is expected to enter the workforce in great numbers in 2020. Considered to be the first generation that grew up with social networking, Z’s will likely gravitate to and expect to embrace a high degree of technology and information sharing at work though no hard data yet exists for exactly how they’ll integrate into the job market.

The Numbers

The Numbers

As the above pie charts show, the generational diversity of the workplace is both ever-present and changing. How this will impact the future of design is unclear, though the presence of Millenials and Gen Z’ers will likely drive a greater focus on technology and networking that could drive team innovation. The latter possibility is backed up by Allsteel’s recent research finding that “Intra-team Information Sharing” is one of the six factors that is most closely correlated with worker productivity. There is also a possibility that flexibility in working environments will continue to be a factor as the significant minority of Gen X’ers continue to prioritize work-life balance.

You can view the complete report by Allsteel, including examinations of other types of workplace diversity, including gender, nationality, and contingent status.