David and Jonah Stillman are a father-and-son duo who aim to shatter the myths surrounding Gen Z through public speaking and the publication of their co-authored book, Gen Z @ Work. Alongside his Gen X father, recent high school graduate, Jonah, explores firsthand what it means to be part of Gen Z. As the first class of Gen Z enters the workforce, they number over 70 million, surpassing their predecessors in size. By 2020, they are expected to represent 40% of US consumers. It’s no wonder this newest generation is a widely studied one.

The Stillmans joined HGA architects in a breakout session at the CoreNet Global Summit in Seattle to address the impact Gen Z will have on the cultural and social norms that inform both environments and lifestyle choices of tomorrow. Discussion covered technology, transportation, uses and new building typologies. Among these are major shifts in priorities regarding time, convenience and expectations about daily experience, even from millennial trends. This timely session explored the impact on our cities, our buildings and the future of the workplace.

People are all too quick to lump Gen Z in with their immediate predecessor millennials. However, a look at a few insights can dispel such a judgement. While millennials were raised in a largely flourishing culture, Gen Z grew up in a period of recession. Such an environment instilled an ethic of hard work and a sensibility that there are no guarantees in life. This results in a generation driven to make their own way and to succeed in the workforce. Using popular culture as an analogy, the millennials got Harry Potter; whereas Gen Z got Hunger Games. Says Jonah, “It’s one versus the world. If you don’t win, you die.”

The Stillmans also weighed in on the topic of virtual reality. Jonah asserts, “The line between physical has not just been blurred, but has been completely eliminated.” And David echoes, “It’s beyond accepting technology. You just expect it.”

All this raises questions about the impact Gen Z will have on not just the workforce at large, but on today’s real estate strategies and tomorrow’s value proposition and alliance partners in the delivery of corporate real estate. What will Gen Z ultimately want out of their work culture? Jonah sums up by saying, “We might challenge you to say, hey, is there a way to do it better?” His father nods and adds, “This generation is all about evolution.”