In a proposed but unbuilt interior for Nestlé’s headquarters in Glendale, California, Wolcott Associates has called for an open, sunny interior with few walls or partitions—a big swerve away from the long rows of private offices prized by corporate America of an earlier age. The open-plan office, says Huebner, is a sign that Gen Y supervisors and employees prefer a collegial style of work over a near-military emphasis on rank. The anywhere-everywhere aspect of the Web and PDAs makes younger employees less interested in claiming proprietary space; one’s identity is not invested in a desk and chair but rather in an RFI (radio frequency identification) that follows workers around the building, turning any workstation into personal space. “All you need is your laptop and a charge,” says Huebner.
And with the growth of telecommuting, the modern office is growing smaller. “We are being asked to design for 1.3 people per seat,” says the Wolcott designer. If these features may jar older office workers, they are already self-evident to people in their 20s, according to Huebner. “We’re talking about taking Step One and Step Two of the future here,” says Huebner, “And it’s happening faster than we’d probably like to admit.”