The population pyramids of the western worlds are being turned upside down. We live longer, we work longer and we have fewer children. This means that the 24-year-old will work alongside the 74-year-old. Recent research from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), shows that so-called ’4G-Workforces’ spanning four generations are becoming more common as people delay retirement into their 70s and 80s. However, according to The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), two-thirds of employers in the UK have no HR strategy for managing this age-diversity. And in the USA, the term ’Silver Tsunami’ has been coined to describe the possible impact of its ageing workforce.

Cross-generational collaboration is now a must but the question is how to facilitate it. On one hand, the older generation is more used to a certain set of default practices and prerequisites, such as a mainly nondigital workplace traditionally dominated by men. On the other, the new generation and the generations to come are so-called digital natives, born into a world where the Internet already exists, as well as a gendermixed workforce. Also, actual ageing sets the stage for a number of physical as well as psychological challenges.

The trick is to address to everyone’s needs, without prioritising or discriminating any age.

These differences of course create tension – hopefully creative tension – and design can support in making cross-generational collaboration possible. Firstly, design can support; bridging the generational gap by creating a work environment that is fit for both digitally savvy new generations and those used to carrying out their profession in a more analogue way, without one way excluding the other. Traditionally, older generations are used to doing one task at a time, while the younger tend to quickly practice and master multitasking, even though certain types of multitasking are being discussed as something negative to productivity and mindfulness overall. Secondly, the actual architecture and furniture in the work environment can be adapted to all ages, to support different physical and psychological stages of life.

This article has been taken from the Kinnarps Trend Report 2015. Click here to download the full research paper.