The New Workplace Trend
For many Americans, work has become something of an obsession. There is so much focus put on career goals and being the best that workers are burning out. There is a constant struggle to balance a career with things like children, passions, or even pets. This is why millennials and Gen Z-ers are changing traditional office life; at many companies the strict 9am-5pm schedule is being replaced with a more casual one.
Young works are pushing back and demanding more flexibility; including, paid leave for a new baby, more vacation time, time for exercise or therapy, and more freedom with their hours and work location.
Millennials and Gen Z-ers are increasingly leaving their current jobs, not for better titles or better pay, but for healthier work environments. Ana Recio, the executive vice president of global recruiting at Salesforce, comments, “They have proven the model that you don’t need to be in the office 9 to 5 to be effective… This generation is single-handedly paving the way for the entire workforce to do their jobs remotely and flexibly.”
However, these kinds of demands tend to be a luxury only college educated, white collar workers have been able to attain. The ability to take a pay cut or be highly selective is simply not something people in most sectors of the economy are able to do. There are some small perceptible shifts; however, with companies like Apple and Walmart which have been discussing the need to shift the focus from shareholders to employees.
Work is a Thing, Not a Place
Flexibility to the younger generations means being able to shape their jobs to work with their daily lives.
This could mean working remotely or having the ability to adjust their hours week to week.
Abby Engers, a strategist at Boly:Welch, an employment search firm in Portland notes, “People are burnt out. They’re making a commitment to themselves to take time off. If they see you’re doing the work and doing it well, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing it at 10 p.m. or 10 a.m.”
Women specifically have often faced what social scientists call a “flexibility stigma” which has negatively affected their careers in terms of pay or promotion. However, now that more non parents or fathers are asking for similar types of flexibility this stigma could lessen and hopefully disappear.
Take Jonathan Wong, for example. When he became a father he was working 80 hour weeks in management consulting and could barely take a break to facetime his son before bed. He decided to quit, taking a 30% pay cut, for a more flexible job that allows him to take his son to preschool in the morning. He states, “If the overwork problem will ever be solved, guys need to be part of the solution.”
Ultimately, employees feel like they are able to work harder and more effectively when they are not forced to divide life from work. Williams Yost, the chief executive and founder of Flex Strategy Group, which helps organizations build flexible work cultures observes, “When younger workers talk about balance, what they are saying is, ‘I will work hard for you, but I also need a life.’”
Dozens of consulting and research firms have found, through surveys, that flexibility is now a job requirement rather than an added bonus. Yet, not all young people are asking for the benefits of flexibility because they don’t want to be perceived as lazy or disloyal.
These days, recruiters have noticed that young people are asking for flexibility over pay or seniority. In fact, when visiting college campuses, recruiters say new graduates don’t even see flexibility as something to negotiate for; it’s assumed it’s “part of the deal.”
The move toward increased flexibility is happening for many reasons, one of which is technology. Young people entering the workforce have no memory of a time when people weren’t always reachable, so they see less of a need to be tied to an office setting.
Another reason is because young people are getting married and starting families later in life; meaning, they are more established in their careers and can have more leverage to ask for the flexibility they want.
Millennials have also learned from the mistakes of their parents. They saw them lose jobs and savings during the Great Recession and therefore don’t have the same expectations of a lifetime of loyalty to one employer. Therefore, they are less likely to give their whole lives over to one job.
Why This Change Benefits All
The process of an interview used to be perceived as something of a test; however, it’s changed to more of a conversation. It’s a chance for the potential employee to not only show they are a good candidate; but also, see what they would get out of the job.
A survey by Werk found that older employees are just as likely to want flexibility as young employees; however, they are less likely to ask for it. This can lead to rising tensions between the young people who are fighting for life outside the office, and older workers who feel tied to their desks. Once flexibility can be integrated into more workforces as the norm for workers of all ages, these tensions are likely to disappear.
This also applies to the tensions between male and female workers. Just as young workers must advocate for the same types of flexibility for their older colleagues, men must advocate for women workers in order to help end the flexibility stigma.
At the end of the day, young workers are ready and excited about changing the workforce environment so that if will allow all workers, regardless of age or sex, to thrive and suceed in the workplace.
Let’s start helping each other today so we can all start melding work and life rather than separating them.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored