Are we building our future, or ‘theirs’?


Published: 29 Oct 2021


There’s a reason that you don’t see many people globally wanting to call themselves a Generational ‘expert’. It’s one of those few areas of research that you can indeed find out vast amounts of information about.

The missing component, however is that each generation has its own culture formed from their period in history. This affects their outlook. And remember, they have parents from one (or two) generations further back. This affects the traits, values, and beliefs in a person. In other words – anyone writing about younger generations than them, by default is looking back…not forward.

The only way to ever have a true handle on younger generations is to include them, ask them, inform them – in the workplace and in communities. But exactly how do we get them to engage in the conversation in their way – not ours?

Well, for a start it needs to be short. Millennials may turn up in person for a short while but if they are given an option to participate online in some way (surveys or polls) they will take it instead. Five-hour meetings are not their thing.

Gen Z even less so. They may not turn up in person at all, but will be interested in community issues, and global issues. They could be the most forward thinking generation in history – they’ve had to be, we left them a hell of an inheritance! You’ll need to pre-sort information for them to consider. They are used to curated data, that they can assess quickly for relevance to them. The pitch will need to be right, and they will need to identify with the group. Images that show a diversity of people, ages, cultures etc.

With all of the above in mind here is the bold question that needs asking……”Are we building our future or ‘their’ future?”

With some of the evidence already in, one thing is clear – we need to build better suited for purpose housing, – not merely more of it!

We probably don’t need to build any more, ‘big’ houses (as Millennials don’t need/want the status or kudos of them) – or, they believe the work involved will detract from the lifestyle choices they desire. They would rather spend time doing other things than house maintenance. And they are the most social generation so spend less time at home.

So, by 2061 who will be living in these big houses? We may find they are being used for co-housing projects where several families live together. Boomers will either be living in retirement style villages or passed on. They will actually have started downsizing 20 or more years earlier, however in 2031-41.

Instead of building more houses, we have to build more amenities within the existing developments sprouting up. Millennials expectations are to be able to live ‘SURBAN’ style. A hybrid of urban (city/town developed areas of housing and infrastructure, lots of amenities right on your doorstep) and suburban (communities around main centres, that have dense housing, but a commute for amenities).

So, what’s ahead? By 2026 Boomers will have exited the workforce. Gen X will not step up and fill all of those shoes as far too many of them are not in the current workforce – they make up the majority of SME business owners in New Zealand. They opted out as soon as they realised that working for ‘the man’ couldn’t get them the lifestyle they wanted.

Millennials then, will rule the workplace by 2026 and be moving into senior positions.

When they do, we can expect significant changes. Millennials are about fairness, equity, collaboration, and values that are seen – not just talked about. They are used to sharing everything, brought up in an era of mass divorce and blended families. They are social animals, and like being in groups. They can handle a lot going on at once because they had after school programmes that would make a NASA intern look like a slacker.

Under their leadership, workplace harmony will return, toxic environments and people will be rare – because of the fairness and equity in their DNA coding at birth. The ‘toxics’ that are there now will be performance managed out properly as soon as their older bosses leave and nepotism and unholy alliances desist. Workplace bullying will go down, suicide rates will go down, wellbeing will go up. Millennial’s children – the Alphas, will likely be the largest generation in history. They will also be the most diverse, with less than 50% being Caucasian.

Gen Z in contrast, will have Gen Beta children which may be the lowest demographic in history. In global surveys Gen Z consistently (up to 85%) say they either won’t be having children, or they are waiting 5-10 years to see what the state of the world is by then, due to global warming and other issues.

They are the generation that will always choose ethics, principles and activism. There will be no point building brands or housing that don’t meet these principles – as they will not support them or buy them. Gen Z may be the last generation to go to university. They are a pragmatic and resilient generation who are looking for security.

With this disclaimer issued first, here are my predictions for the next few decades:

These predictions are hypothesis based on current generational research available, and societal shifts. You should undertake your own research to come to conclusions that inform your decisions.



Within 10 years – 2031:

  1. Less need for new house builds as more and more commercial buildings in urban areas are re-purposed for housing right in the middle of amenities and, transport links.
  2. Office space will be in consistent decline as more people work from home (regardless of Covid, this was happening. Gen Z will not work from a workplace all week).
  3. The impact of 20 years of building development with no additional thought of health centres, additional parking, and roading in and out will begin to have a serious impact on existing towns.
  4. Co-living spaces/shared houses will be more and more common as Millennial families ‘group’ together, to share mortgages, resources, expenses, and childcare.
  5. Tiny house developments will be more prevalent and will suit the Gen Z generation of minimalists – if built environmentally sound and are affordable.
  6. Houses will be need to be built with working from home 40% of the time or fully from home in mind. They will need great internet connections, special space for studios, consulting rooms, offices, and commercial zoning for this, not just residential may be needed.
  7. Transport solutions will need to be inbuilt into housing developments within the next 10 years as Gen Z’s won’t have/want to use private cars.

Within 20 years- 2041:

  1. The early (geriatric 1980-1986) Millennials will begin to retire.
  2. Gen Z (if working for a business) will only work for ethical brands, and all others who aren’t, may find themselves obsolete with no customers.
  3. AI will be doing many current jobs.
  4. Hologram technology will be the new Zoom era.

 Within 30 years – 2051:

  1. Gen Z now rule the workplace, and everything has been refined to its most efficient and curated.
  2. Transport will be mostly public and driverless/automated.
  3. The original housing developments built late 90s of super big houses with few amenities may now be either a) wastelands b) full of the last of the old people before they downsize or go into retirement villages c) be re-imagined as co-housing projects for multiple families or co-op style housing of singles.
  4. Only the SUPER rich will live alone (Gen Z will not choose money over ethics to buy a house).
  5. Our most precious commodity will be alone time and space.

30 years is actually not that far away. What are your motivations? Are they accurate and relevant for what is ahead? Are they fit for purpose for Millennials and Gen Z/Alpha/Beta?