What Millennials Want (in the Workplace): More Flexibility

Posted by Brandon Carter on Jan. 14, 2015

The traditional American workplace is under attack, friends.

MAINGOOGLEOFFCIES4_mainThe office environment we all know and love is being destroyed from within. The very fabric of the working experience is being ripped to shreds in a swift-moving assault on the status quo.

It’s being carried out by a group of assailants in skinny jeans, with lattes in hand and eyes tightly fixated on smartphones.

That’s right, people. Gird your loins, the Millennials have arrived and they’re changing EVERYTHING.

Or, at least that’s what you’re supposed to believe. The above hyperbole is just a summary of what you’ll read on a lot of blogs and publications.

It’s true that Millennials, or those born in the 80s and 90s, come from a background unlike any the US has seen. They were raised with the Internet, hold insane amounts of college debt, keep a wealth of information and distraction always on hand with smartphones, to name just a few unique characteristics. They’re different people, for sure.

Oh, and they already comprise the single largest generation in the workplace

But is keeping them engaged and dialed-in to their jobs (a proven key to true customer engagement) really all that different from anyone else in the office?

The answer is no. Mostly. Millennials want many of the same things other generations have desired at those ages - respect, feedback, higher wages, etc. 

But their unique circumstances have led Millennials to become accustomed to certain freedoms, attitudes and management styles that do make them a bit unique from their older peers. 

Over the next few months we'll explore some of these differences, as well as some of what isn't changing when it comes to managing Millennials. 

Millennials Crave Flexibility

There's a major disconnect between work and life for many Millennials. Their smartphone and internet addictions are leading them to work more hours than other generations. For many of them, there isn't a true work/life balance - they're always on. 

Yet most jobs still expect a standard 9-to-5, 5-days-a-week cubicle residency. To many of this generation, simply getting their work done on time is enough - no matter where, or what time of day it happens. 

How badly do Millennials want flexibility?

According to a recent survey, 77% of Millennials say flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age, and 43% of them are willing to switch jobs to get more flexibility. Amazingly, 40% of them would accept lower pay for more freedom. (Check out our gigantic collection of employee engagement statistics, which includes these and lots of other Millennial nuggets.)

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Start Stretching (Hey That's a Flexibility Pun!)

Here's a theme you're going to see recurring throughout these posts: Millennial ideas are spreading to other generations. Because they've learned how to use the internet pretty well too, GenX and Boomers are also interested in more flexibility. 65% of the workforce believes more flexibility equals more productivity, yet only 19% of employers allow employees to work remotely. 

Change is hard. Trusting your employees to take care of business on time is hard. Doing so takes a leap of faith that may very well come back to bite on occasion. But the potential benefits outweigh the risks in terms of productivity, overhead costs, employee engagement and satisfaction. 

The takeaway is every company should try out benefits such as flex schedules, remote working, fewer hours, expanded or eliminated PTO policies, and other ways that allow employees to feel like they're free to work wherever and whenever they choose. 

(Coffee shop photo courtesy of Abby on Flickr) 

Topics: Employee Engagement + Loyalty, Benefits Trends

Brandon Carter

Written by Brandon Carter

Brandon is a former writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @bscarter