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The Welcoming Workplace: designing for ageing knowledge workers

Alma Erlich (Royal College of Art, Helen Hamlyn Centre, London, UK)
Jo‐Anne Bichard (Royal College of Art, Helen Hamlyn Centre, London, UK)

Journal of Corporate Real Estate

ISSN: 1463-001X

Article publication date: 31 October 2008




The aim of this paper is to assess the needs of older knowledge workers with implications to the planning and design of office environments for this growing workplace demographic.


Exploratory, user‐centred research focused on the design of the work environment was undertaken with older knowledge workers in the UK headquarters of a global organisation. A multi‐disciplinary group of designers, architects and applied social researchers utilised an integrated method approach, including interviews, group discussions and design interventions in the workplace.


Matching the needs of older knowledge workers with the open plan office space, it is found that the workplace provides well for collaboration and teamwork activities, but fails to provide an adequate environment for tasks requiring concentration, ways of working that are alternative to the computer, and rest and recuperation.

Research limitations/implications

The sample of the study is small and based on a “case study” of older workers in one large organisation, and does more to highlight questions and limits the certainty of generalisation. The study has intentionally chosen to limit its inquiry to the experience of older knowledge workers, and therefore can only assume that younger workers may have many of the same needs.


In the context of two major shifts within work, namely, the progressive aging workforce and the move towards a knowledge economy, the study tackles an urgent need to re‐evaluate current office workspace and suggests ways of accommodating it to the requirements of older knowledge workers.



Erlich, A. and Bichard, J. (2008), "The Welcoming Workplace: designing for ageing knowledge workers", Journal of Corporate Real Estate, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 273-285.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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