It’s inevitable. Workers get older every day, and, as most workers discover, new hires get “younger” every day. Colleagues can be decades apart in life and in work experience.
Coworking spaces have historically skewed toward younger workers, but that isn’t inherently necessary. Self-selected coworking communities do tend toward peer groups with similar age ranges, which has a feedback effect of attracting more “workers like us”, perpetuating the pattern.
But in the bright new world of post-Covid “hybrid” working, remote working and coworking are for everybody. Including workers of all ages.
This spring Will Kinnear writes to ask “How Do We Create Space That’s Attractive To All Ages?”  It’s a good question. What does Kinnear suggest?
“The problem for workspaces is age.”(from )
(Well, a problem is age.)
First of all, I have to say that Kinnear’s analysis of the problem is shallow and mostly wrong. He imagines that older workers date back to some stone age “without computers, mobile phones or any of the digital technology”. I hate to break it to you, but these older workers are, in fact, the ones who invented that stuff, and have been using it since before you young whippersnappers were born. So, no, it’s not about grandma who doesn’t know what a computer is. It’s about workers with a decade or two experience using multiple generations of technology.
Anyway, Kinnear is correct that different people have “different expectations for what a workplace should be like, and their needs vary”. But this is not about technology, it is about culture and experience. And it is not about age per se. There are many sources of individual differences in expectation and desires. (I’d also note that the needs and expectations change according to task and over time—there is no one right answer for all time, even for one worker.)
Kinnear then poses the question,
“So how do you create offices that can suit young talent but also the generation more used to traditional styles of working?”
Humph. So there are two kinds of workers, “young talent” and “traditional” non-talent? Right.
The main point is, how do you create a workspace in which workers can find a variety of ways to work, to suit their own preferences?
This is, indeed, the right question.
Unfortunately, Kinnear gives us no answer, except to pay attention to what workers want. In particular, “Unless a business is only interested in recruiting 25-year-olds, the office space has to appeal to the majority.” (You may wish to consult your legal department about the ramifications of only recruiting people under 30.)
My own view is that this challenge is actually about the social dynamics of the community, not in technology or furniture layout. Sure, there are features that might attract older workers (child care, for starters) and features that likely won’t (e.g., all night videogame tournaments). But the thing that will keep older workers is a comfortable set of friendly colleagues of whatever age. Sound familiar? That’s what keeps workers of any age.
So focus on the culture, not on the décor and technology.
And, if I might be so bold to suggest: don’t just hire freshouts as “community managers”. Include some grey hairs in community leadership.
- Will Kinnear, Generational Shift: How Do We Create Space That’s Attractive To All Ages?, in Allwork, April 27, 2022. https://allwork.space/2022/04/generational-shift-how-do-we-create-space-thats-attractive-to-all-ages/