Not your parents' workplace

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PITTSFIELD — Ron Griffin began his business career working in what he refers to as the "old IBM white shirt and tie environment," the kind of culture that was both structured and rigid.

But the modern workplace isn't like that. Griffin, president of EDM Architecture, Engineering and Management in Pittsfield, hasn't been afraid to roll with the changes.

When EDM moved to 100 West St. last year, Griffin created an area in the office unthinkable when he started the business 27 years ago. It contains a small putting green with a real hole and flagstick, along with a dartboard. Employees hold putting contests during business hours.

"This is where we have all our meetings," Griffin said. "It's not structured anymore. It's just free-flow. It's more interesting. More inviting."

Daniel Proskin, the vice president of BB&E Office Interiors in Pittsfield, refers to these new workplace spaces as "breakout areas" that are fueled by designs that cater to millennials.

These spaces take many shapes and forms. Paul LeBlanc, the CEO of Zogics, which sells gym wipes, towels and fitness equipment, recently installed an in-house gym at the company's headquarters in a former warehouse on Valley Street in Lee.

Michael Griffin, of Dalton, Ron Griffin's nephew, works for HubSpot in Cambridge, an internet marketing company, that has treadmill desks and a giant flat screen TV at its offices that allows employees to play classic video games like "Super Mario Bros." while at work.

"I'm calling you from our coffee garden," said Griffin, 27. "It's the way I like to start my day. We have a barista from 7:30 to 4. It's a really popular spot to get some work done."

THE NEW OFFICE

Millennials, aged 20 to 36, became the largest generation in the U.S. workforce in 2015. Their presence has made employers rethink the office.

"It seems that with companies that have millennials the typical cubicle has changed," Proskin said. "If there are any walls at all, they're low. A lot of the reasoning, I think, is there's a lot more collaboration and teaming up going on with the younger employees, more visual interaction with co-workers. Open space is really the term that it is."

"The way our children are educated in college or university, there's a lot more collaboration being taught," he said. "When they (millennials) come out into the workforce they want to continue to work that way."

At EDM, eight of the 18 employees in the firm's Pittsfield office are millennials, and six of them have joined the company during the last two years.

Griffin said he began to see what appealed to millennials during his frequent visits to General Dynamics Missile Systems on Plastics Avenue, a company that EDM does a lot of business with.

"They recognize that millennials have a different set of needs," Griffin said. "They have ping-pong tables, foosball, all kinds of stuff in their facility. It's really, really young, That's kind of what we have."

"It's creating an environment that's more conducive to what they think they need," Griffin said, referring to his employees who are millennials. "This is not just a work place."

The gym at Zogics serves two purposes, LeBlanc said. Not only does it provide a place for employees to stay in shape, it allows the company to highlight the products it sells. Health and wellness are important to millennials.

"More and more we're seeing companies building onsite wellness facilities that have a convertible room for onsite yoga space or are making a warehouse into a gym," LeBlanc said. "As a company we're working with other businesses to outfit these spaces. We recently launched a separate workplace/wellness division to help navigate that process."

LeBlanc said he didn't build the facility just to "appease" millennials, but as a way for his entire staff to bond.

"You start to create that camaraderie that comes from being on an athletic team," LeBlanc said. "It helps that you're suffering and succeeding in something that's not directly related. Outside of an onsite fitness class, it would be difficult to create that elsewhere."

Items like gyms and putting greens, treadmill desks and coffee areas may seem like gimmicks, encouraging employees to goof off on the job. But Michael Griffin said millennials tend to thrive in places like this.

"I think, honestly, it's about the level of trust that a company gives to its employees," he said. "There's so much autonomy that's provided at a place like this. It's very rare to hear someone disciplined by it."

The presence of these breakout areas hasn't hurt productivity either.

"We have experienced double-digit growth" at EDM, Ron Griffin said. "Last year in our first year in this space we had 32 percent growth.

"Now, I don't know if all of that can be attributed to this," he said of employee motivation and productivity. "But they love where they are." 


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