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Longevity and the inclusive workplace

Office layout could be the key to making multiple generation workplaces more inclusive

Longevity and the inclusive workplace
[Source photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images]

There’s a new book on longevity that will make you question how prepared the workplace is for the rising population of adults over 60. The book is entitled, The Longevity Imperative: How to Build a Healthier and More Productive Society to Support Our Longer Lives by Andrew Scott. The premise is that society is not currently structured to support longer lives. The book calls for significant changes across health systems, the economy, and the financial sector.

There’s an irony in the multibillion-dollar longevity market. As a society, we are keenly focused on a day-in-the-life of millionaire biohacker Bryan Johnson. We invest in apps and devices to monitor our health. We cite the World Health Organization’s stats—by the year 2030, one in six adults will be over the age of 60. That number rises from 1.4 billion in 2030 to 2.1 billion in 2050. Yet we are underprepared to support this demographic in the workplace.


The workplace is where we spend more than a third of our lives. For many, it’s not just a job; it’s a lifeline to economic stability, social interactions, and intellectual stimulation. Inclusion is critical to meeting these needs.

Yet 68% of baby boomers and 53% of Gen X believe their age is a disadvantage when seeking a new job, according to an American Staffing Association survey conducted by The Harris Poll. Further, nearly one in four workers aged 45 and older report being subjected to negative comments about their age from supervisors or coworkers, according to AARP.

Inclusion is not just a nice way to be—it directly impacts a company’s profitability. When employees feel like they belong, they look forward to coming to work and stay at their company for a long time, and their employers grow revenue more than three times faster than their less-inclusive rivals, according to data from Great Place to Work.

Creating an inclusive work environment can go a long way in attracting and retaining top talent across generations and providing mentoring and reverse-mentoring opportunities. While raising awareness and conducting inclusivity training are some ways to address the issue, one fundamental path is being overlooked: the work environment’s physical layout and design. It can play a significant role in supporting the impending demographic changes that will have a ripple effect on every aspect of society.

As a Gen Z trained architect-turned-technologist, I’m amazed at buildings’ untapped potential. From the changing workforce perspective, we can transform buildings to create more inclusive workplaces for everyone.


The post pandemic return to the office is a great example. In the first wave, offices were reconfigured to function more like large call centers. The assumption being that employees will only be onsite a few days a week and the new layout would consolidate space and save money.

In reality, employees came to the office, knew they were being tracked by their badge swipes, and realized the cacophony of colleagues working in an open space kept them from completing meaningful assignments.

They worked in physical isolation, squatting in large conference rooms to finish projects or host videoconferences with team members logging in from home. Not to mention the badge-swipe police figured out that return-to-office mandates inspired employees to check in through one door and leave a few hours later through another.

The subsequent drop in productivity, collaboration, and morale led to a wave of office retrofits that combined the traditional office with more soft seating and lounge-like meeting spaces. Anecdotally, office redesigns did boost in-person meetings and productivity but did little to address inclusivity because they lacked insight into the corporate culture.

Meanwhile, another shift is underway in the workplace as more older adults delay retirement due to a variety of reasons including financial and the desire to continue working. According to Pew Research, adults aged 65 and older will make up 8.6% of the labor force by 2032, up from 6.6% in 2022. For employers, this may mean accommodating the needs of older workers with ergonomic workstations and assistive technologies, as well as supporting a collegial environment.

With multiple generations in the workplace, the ability to ensure inclusivity and productivity is not often viewed from the perspective of the office layout. However, we can gain a better understanding of office engagement and interactions by pairing body heat insights with machine learning and data. From there, we can interpret the nuances of impromptu interactions, scheduled meetings, foot traffic patterns, and office chair rollbacks, for example. This may result in more sofas and open areas, private phone booths, and smaller conference rooms—it all depends on the culture that exists and the one the employer wants to create.

It also eliminates the need to track or watch individuals, or institute ‘forced fun.’ Instead, we are able to aggregate and analyze movement trends as opposed to how certain individuals work, or don’t work, together. Based on that data, the office layout and design can be configured to reflect how employees actually use the space. Decisions for improving productivity, collaboration and inclusivity can be backed by data instead of best guesses, design trends, and assumptions.

With longer lifespans, we can learn, grow, evolve, and work as a society at an unprecedented pace compared to previous generations. In the workplace, let’s take action now to not squander those opportunities that will be here before we know it.

Honghao Deng is CEO and cofounder of Butlr.

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Honghao Deng is CEO and cofounder of Butlr. More

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