Preparing for Gen Z in the Workplace
Generation Z

Generation Z will soon be graduating from university and there is a massive new cohort about to enter the workforce.

So who is the Gen Z?


Gen Z is anyone born between 1995 and 2012 and the oldest of them are creeping into their 20’s.

Designers and corporations need to plan ahead to be ready for this diverse and technologically advanced generation, mitigating any challenges and utilizing opportunities.

Unlike the previous generation of early digital adopters, Gen Z are digital natives who likely grew up with a smartphone and have never spent a day offline.

They are the first generation to get instant access to information and are growing up in a world post the Great Recession, global warming and artificial intelligence.

So how have these events and lifestyle affected their needs, work-styles and what can you do to help them and your workplace flourish?


Most Advanced Technologically  

As Digital Innates, Gen Z will expect the latest technology to be integrated into the workplace. How does this translate into design?

Building smart workspaces is critical. This means seamless connections between technologies, for example being able to connect your laptop or smartphone to any screen. (airtame is a great app for this) or fast enough computer to handle heavier software. 

Smart infrastructure could include personal temperature and lighting control. Companies such as Cisco are integrating mechanical and lighting systems to provide personal comfort experiences so that your preset environments travel with you around the space when you plug and play. This also plays into wellness, which will be elaborated upon below.


"In a world that's changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks". Mark Zuckerberg.

Wall quote at Smart & Biggar, Toronto, by SDI-Design

Help them change the world

Nearly a third of gen Z would take a 10-20% pay cut to work for a company whose mission they deeply care about. Many companies are already taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and buy products that have a smaller impact on the world. An astonishing 93% will consider a company’s impact on society when deciding whether to work there.

When designing a new space, be mindful to use materials that have a low impact on the environment. For instance, Interface flooring are actively working on not just have a zero carbon footprint, but are developing products that are actually carbon negative.


Variety of workspaces at Nulogy, SDI Design. Photo Credit: Steve Tsai

Workspace Variety

35% of Gen Z have or plan to own their own businesses. In fact 72% of Gen Z high schoolers want to start a business. They are highly entrepreneurial and in the era of Starbucks "offices", they are much more comfortable working nomadically. One of the entrepreneurial driving factors is that they value independence and it ties into their competitiveness.

Although they are naturally collaborative (%56 believe their colleagues enable them to do their best work), they will not be happy if they have to work all of the time in an open environment.

Private head-down spaces, where one can have some alone time is important in refreshing and focusing. 

Having a balance of working environments allows employees to move around depending on the task at hand.

A Gen-Z employee might start working on a document in the afternoon, open it on their phone on the subway ride home and pull it up again on their laptop while watching TV.  Sharp delineation between work and home are not prevalent, in fact, a new design genre has emerge coined as ‘resimmercial’. This has led many office furniture companies to move away from the stuffy traditional office, making their furniture with materials and styles you would typically find in a home or hotel. Companies that are doing this include Steelcase, Haworth, Knoll and Teknion 

When designing workspaces, designers should delve deeper and think in terms of activity base working, rather than the traditional categories of workspaces. Spaces should be designed to cater for the purpose of the user. For example: Individual focus, Individual process, re-energize space, dialogue spaces, socializing spaces, creation and inspiration spaces and coordination and collaboration spaces.


Soft lighting and natural materials in the cafeteria at Postmedia, SDI Design.

Wellness in the workplace

Over the last few years, the importance of wellness in the workplace has not only gained traction in the workplace design industry but as a lifestyle choice that people are taking seriously.  

With the rise of fitness trends, veganism and healthy foodporn all over social media, Gen Z are becoming the most health conscious generation. By example, this generation has a much smaller percentage taking up smoking and drink compared to previous generations.

An interior can have a tremendous impact on a person mental health. Bad design can cause stress, effect career growth and be a major factor in job satisfaction. On the flip slide, good design can calm the mind and improve health and wellness. Use the Well guidelines as a initial checklist to make sure you tick all the boxes. These includes: air quality, water quality, nourishment, natural light, fitness, comfort, mind and innovation. 


Gen Z were still kids during the Great Recession and may have seen their parents take huge financial hits. A significant portion of their lives may have been defined by struggles related to that. While Millennials are often seen as more idealistic, and more motivated by purpose than a paycheck, Generation Z may lean more toward security and money. This is a pragmatic generation — they care about making a difference, but are ultimately motivated by ensuring they have a secure life outside of work.

Safety is just as applicable in the workplace as the home. Safe workplaces educate and protect workers against internal threats such as harassment and intimidation, as well as external concerns, be they virtual or real. Simon Sineks 'Circle of Safety' is most true for this generation. In short, this basically means that employees have a sense of security in the workplace that encourages open dialogue and speaking freely to suggesting ideas or give critique without the fear of being scolded. Whilst design can only go so far, good leadership (often influenced by design) is what helps bring the most out of employees.   

Many of this cohort are still in high school and only time will tell how current trends will evolve. In the meantime, many design considerations noted above are commendable in their own right and are worth implementing to improve the workplace for all employees regardless of the demographic group.

The world is changing at an immense rate, so stay aware and stay tuned...

Noam Hazan.jpg


Noam is the creative director of SDI Design.

Educated and trained as an Architect in London, England. Noam has also worked in London, New York and Toronto for well renowned Architecture practices such as Foster + Partners and Richard Meier. 

As a designer with an entrepreneurial spirit, Noam  founded a coworking space in North York which was recognised in Forbes, Blog TO and Toronto Life. in 2017 Noam was nominated by the City of Vaughan as a candidate for 40 under 40 in Canada for 2017.  

Noam regularly gives talks on office design and has had articles on the subject published. | Instagram | Linkedin

How Becoming A Parent Has Taught Me About Accessible Design
Accessible design

I must admit that before studying design, and specifically the building code, I was somewhat uniformed and even oblivious to the various accessibility challenges that many people experience in everyday life.

I think for the most part when you ask people what barrier free or accessible design means to them, they would associate it with someone being in a wheelchair or in crutches, which I’ve learned is only a small piece of the pie.  

This perception would perhaps lead people to feel that there isn’t much of a need to consider accessible design on a day to day basis as the frequency of a person requiring accessible design might be ‘highly infrequent’. It is important to remember that the term “accessible design” addresses a broad range of physical limitations, many of which are not always visible and in the following example, not always because of a disability.

I came to this realization when my daughter was about eight weeks old. We were at a restaurant when the inevitable happened, she needed a diaper change.

With a crying baby in one hand and a diaper bag in the other, I made my way to the restroom. A journey that would have been so simple had I been alone, felt like a small obstacle course. There was a long narrow hallway with no turning space, a door handle (as opposed to a push open door for people that have difficulty with grip) and no push-button to open the washroom door.

Getting into the restroom was a challenge, but when I realised there was no change table I had to call my partner to help. My next instinct was to look for the barrier free stall so that we would have more room to maneuver, but of course it didn’t exist.

As a new mother it made me realise the challenges that millions of mothers experience everyday as well as the millions of people that struggle in spaces that do not take their requirements into account. 

In the restaurant, where I had my bad experience, a person in a wheelchair or using a walker would have found it extremely difficult, if not  impossible to access the washroom stall.

Considering other limitations, this could also pose difficulty for someone dealing with an adult that needs an area to be changed or who needs extra space and support to sit down and stand up.

Accessibility takes in many factors, by way of example, the design and height of sinks. Perhaps you are below the “average” height. Are the knobs easy to turn or could they pose limitations to someone who has arthritis or difficulty with their grip? Does a paper towel dispenser work for everyone?

These challenges go outside and beyond the restroom. For example, reaching for items at the grocery store, walking up to a teller at the bank, opening a heavy door, were the transition between steps visible to everyone? All these mundane actions that most of us take for granted may cause incredible moments of stress and anxiety for others.

This experience highlights the importance of accessible design in everything we do and provides us an opportunity to create spaces that are truly inclusive for all people to enjoy.

Pushing design to the limit, even beyond the minimum requirements, only creates more ideas and possibilities, rather than restrictions. To me this is one step in the right direction to changing the world people live in and experience every day.

Below are some resources to help you with you AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). /

Terilyn Augustine.jpg


Project Coordinator at SDI Interior Design & Project Coordination

Formally trained as a designer, Terilyn has a thorough understanding of the design process and uses her knowledge to ensure projects get done on time and on budget. | Linkedin

Life Lessons From Abroad
Cover Pages.jpg

I love to travel, I always have. For me the attraction has rarely been the tourist sites, but in the people and how they live their lives. There’s always something to be learned from another culture, and immersing yourself in an unfamiliar environment is a fascinating way to temporarily step away from your own life. It gives you the opportunity to observe the world from outside your usual bubble and to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and in so-doing to reflect on both your own life and the society you live in. Speaking personally, travel plays a major role in honing my sense of empathy, a skill I consider essential to the practice of design.

The small Caribbean island of Vieques forms part of the American commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and lies about 8 miles to the southeast of the main island. We've been regularly travelling there for winter vacations for the past 23 years. Vieques was hit very hard by Hurricane Maria in late 2017, and in fact had lost its electricity even a couple of weeks earlier while weathering Maria's predecessor storm Irma. Power was not fully re-established for over 6 months and to this day reliability is tenuous. Needless to say the island's residents had a very rough winter.

If you're reading this it's a safe bet that you're living a life that the average Viequense would envy. We live in a prosperous country with a reliable infrastructure and have established resilient institutions to help us in times of need. But as we are well aware, the downside includes living with the stresses that our culture places on us in order to maintain the safety nets we’ve built. Many of us are just too busy to pause and enjoy a moment or two of happiness.

Rancho Choli is a little food bar on a residential street in Esperanza, one of two towns on Vieques. They specialize in "comida criolla", Puerto Rico's traditional fare, with dishes such as roast pig and rice and beans. The place is essentially a shack, colourfully painted with a street-facing walk up window where you give your order when the lady slides the screen open. Her greeting is always jovial, full of laughter, teasing and flirting. Choli is a master griller and a man of quiet dignity and good nature. The portions are hearty and the flavours addictive and there's always a cold cerveza nearby, all of which make it a mandatory stop for us. One small addition we noticed this year is that the Styrofoam clamshells that the food is served in now bear hand-scrawled words of positivity such as those in the picture above.

These would probably come off as a cloying gimmick if they were handed to you from your local trendy urban food truck, but the fact that they've been personally written (mostly as a message to his neighbour patrons) by someone who has seen their town suffer major damage, has scrabbled their life back together while receiving next to no help from government safety nets, and who has managed to return to doing what they love with immense good humour, makes them sincere and heartfelt in my eyes.

And once again, travel has shown me the best in people and reminded me to appreciate all that I am blessed with!

Aprende a Perdonar : Learn to forgive / Choli dice: Olvida tus Penas y Baila!! : Choli says: Forget your troubles and dance!!



Bruce contributes over 25 years of experience in Interior Design and Project Coordination.  He is an expert in programming and planning and has earned a reputation for meticulously overseeing technically complex projects. In conjunction with his extensive Facility Programming work Bruce has become extremely knowledgeable in the area of Workplace Standards and Change Management. | Instagram | Linkedin