Today and over the course of the next week, basketball will distract your employees. Some may be sneaky about it, utilizing lightning reflexes to switch windows when a supervisor passes by.
Others may bask in it, displaying the bandwidth-hogging hoops in all 21-inch monitor glory for everyone to see. Some may be responsible enough to stream it on their phones, saving the company’s precious data pipeline but doing no favors to productivity.
Odds are your Millennial employees will fall into the category of “shameless viewers.”
It’s tempting to chalk this behavior up as Millennial entitlement and arrogance. Regardless of how it's classified, there’s no denying that Millennials want a workplace that is as comfortable as home.
This culture shift is maybe the biggest change offices are having to cope with. Millennials are now the largest generation in the American workplace, and frankly, they don’t think it should feel like a work place.
They want something resembling the rest of their lives – free, casual, “chill.”
Life is Work, and Work is Life
For decades, people have lived in two worlds – home and work. Home is where they can relax, do what they like, wear what they like, spend time with their family and be at the beckon call only of friends and family.
Work is the opposite. They have to be in a specific place during a specific time, performing specific tasks, adhering to a dress code, seeking permission to handle non-work duties or to take a few days off.
Generations have been fine with this arrangement. Millennials, by and large, are not.
There is significant data behind this:
- 78% of millennials say it is more important to enjoy work than to make a lot of money (Clark University)
- Among millennials, friendships in the workplace make them feel happy (57%), motivated (50%), and productive (39%) (LinkedIn)
- Half of Millennials would “rather have no job than a job they hate” (MTV)
- 78% of Millennials say workplace environment affects their decisions to stay at a job (RingCentral)
- 64% of Millennials said they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring (Intelligence Group)
- 79% of Millennials think they should be allowed to wear jeans to work (at least sometimes) versus 60% of Boomers (MTV)
- 28% millennials have texted a manager out of work hours for a non-work related issue, compared to only 10% of baby boomers (LinkedIn)
- 88% of Millennials want their coworkers to be their friends (MTV)
- 89% of millennials regularly check work email after the work day has ended (Bentley University)
- 60% of Millennials say their employers expect them to be accessible during off hours (RingCentral)
- 70% of Millennials work up to 20 hours or more outside the office each week (RingCentral)
- One-third of millennials think socializing with coworkers will help them move up the ladder (compared to 5% of Baby Boomers) (LinkedIn)
- 67% of millennials are likely to share personal details including salary, relationships and family issues with co-workers, compared to only about one-third of baby boomers (LinkedIn)
(Most of the issues addressed by these statistics are related to inter-office culture. For even more data on Millennials’ desire for flexibility on where and when they work, check out this post.)
Those are some different dynamics from what everyone has come to expect from the traditional office experience. Millennials are heavy into relationships and being comfortable with what they’re doing.
They want their home life to be their work life to be their home life.
Balance doesn't exist for Millennials. Work-Life is one constant stream to them, thanks largely to their smartphone addictions.
That can mean a few different things for an office. Here are three basic guidelines:
- Set clear expectations – This should be done from the outset. Millennials (and any generation) aren’t big on surprises. If Millennials are getting into a job that expects butts in seats for nine hours a day, let them know it up front. If streaming basketball games is forbidden, put it out there.
- Have reasons for those expectations – If you have a strict dress code, then have a rationale for it. Strict policies that exist just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” probably won’t make sense to Millennials. Policies with a sound reasoning will be much more likely to be accepted.
- Reward them for meeting those expectations – We know Millennials want more money, but this goes beyond that. If they’re asked to adhere to a strict 8-5, then don’t ask for the other 5-8. Reward them with a traditional balance and respect boundaries. If they’re asked to put in longer hours, first see #1, and second, make it worth their time by relaxing the atmosphere.
Time for a Leap of Faith
As much as some are loathe to admit it, Millennials are adults. As such, they should be trusted: trusted to get their work done on time, even if they’re not in a cubicle; trusted that they know they need to continue being productive while keeping an eye on the basketball tournament.
If a company has made an investment in bringing in the right people, Millennial or otherwise, then the company should also be willing to place that employee in the best position for them to succeed.
That may not look like a traditional 8-5 cubicle jockey wearing professional attire and only taking the allotted 15 minute breaks. In reality it’s probably closer to a bearded man in a beanie (despite 80 degrees outside) that prefers to listen to vinyl while working on the couch in the break room.
As it is today, Millennials are often the square pegs placed atop round holes. And the result is a lot of yelling about “WHY DON’T THESE SQUARE PEGS LOOK MORE LIKE MY ROUND ONES THAT FIT SO WELL IN THESE ROUND HOLES?”
In reality, maybe adjusting the holes those pegs fit in might be better for productivity. Maybe loosening up on the college basketball streaming policy, or the “no loitering at the water cooler” policy is a small concession that will have a net positive effect.
It takes a leap of faith to adjust a working culture, but sometimes a little “chill” can have a hot result.
(swanky office lounge photo courtesy of Jason Kuffer)