Down with walls

Is millennial the new black? It seems like no matter what you are doing lately, this populace of people is present at the party in some way. Technology? They basically invented it. Socializing? They networked it. Shopping? They revolutionized it. In a world obsessed with labeling itself as this or that, it appears now you either are or you’re not a millennial.

Orange is meant to stimulate focus, creativity and concentration and we find it brings a lot of energy to the space.

You can add office design to that list. The repercussions of a changing workforce have been far and wide with millennials now making up roughly 40 percent of the global workforce. A study by Forbes projects that three out of four workers will be millennials by 2025. That is a lot of people. With the fate of their businesses in the hands of this highly organized majority, entrepreneurs and leaders are working tirelessly to interpret a generational movement that is simultaneously fueled by purpose, inspired by innovation and, above all, open to new ideas.

So how do you build an office for that?

Stefan Cohen asked himself exactly that question when he and partner Alan Brady decided to expand offices for Baraud, the successful and very buzzy boutique recruitment studio the two run here in Grand Cayman. The company recently unveiled the space: a bright yet polished open concept work studio with equal parts high-shine innovation and rustic, reclaimed materials, a touch which Stefan calls the “New York loft vibe.”

Alan Brady and Stefan Cohen
Alan Brady and Stefan Cohen

Baraud was on the back of a fairly revealing corporate culture redesign when the opportunity presented itself to expand into a larger space. This would mean leaving their stylish, but small, previous home at Cricket Square. The new office, located on Edward Street, would be purpose-built; ideal for a company that had just established sincere brand values, values they felt were embodied in this bright, airy place they would now call home.

We caught up with Stefan after the building’s much-buzzed-about grand opening.

InsideOut: Let’s talk about the fabulous space … had you outgrown your previous offices?

Stefan Cohen: Yes, we’d reached capacity at our previous office. Over the past four years our internal staff has increased four-fold. We had been working closely with business advisory firm Shirlaws, predominantly focusing on developing our company culture and values. It worked out to be perfect timing to search for an office space that reflected the values we’d established. It’s been a game changer for us.

IO: How did that journey end up impacting the final space?

SC: Our three company values are bold, real and balance. Bold is seen in our corporate color orange, which is incorporated throughout the space. Orange is meant to stimulate focus, creativity and concentration and we find it brings a lot of energy to the space.

You will see the value “real” in the open concept layout, we wanted to encourage open and honest conversation and to have our team working closely together with the ability to move around and socialize.

Balance is very important to us; this is not only built into the way we work, we also wanted the space to allow for work/life integration. We put a focus on sourcing ergonomic furniture throughout the space. All desks are sit-to-stand and the treadmill desks give the staff the option to be a bit active during work.

Treadmill desk.

IO: Your office encourages collaboration and gamification; how important would you say these two qualities are to the millennial professional?

SC: We wanted to give our staff an outlet to have fun, enjoy a break and, most of all, to socialize. Regardless of the job, work can get dull at times and the games are a nice way to break up the day and take a breather.

We’ve noticed that the games bring staff together who may not normally interact day-to-day. There’s also nothing wrong with a healthy level of competition, especially in a sales-based environment. We love seeing our team sitting together while watching the Olympics, having lunch around the kitchen or playing pool.

In-office pool table.
In-office pool table.

IO: What tips would you give other leaders on creating an engaging work space for a younger breed of business leaders?

SC: On a limited budget, even painting walls in bright colors can brighten moods and spark creativity. We have a whiteboard finish on the wall in our boardroom which is applied like paint; it allows our team to share ideas and write on the wall with markers and then it rubs off like a whiteboard.

Breakout meeting room.
Breakout meeting room.

Collaborative work environments are becoming an important characteristic for millennials. Small-business owners can encourage this by offering a space where staff can sit and discuss ideas. Start by finding a space where employees can get together and simply offer food and drinks.

There’s loads of other options that won’t break the bank. Ergonomic furniture, meditation spaces, community involvement and even allowing social media access can all have a big impact.