Understanding Millennials in the Workplace

understanding millennials in the workplace

One of the billion or so complaints about working with millennials is that they expect too much from the workplace. Millennials want flexibility. They want to work at home. They want to spend time with their families.

As one commenter responded regarding an article about millennial trends, "When I was a child in the 40s and 50s (admittedly a long time ago), we just made do."

Hold on there, Sparky. "We just made do?" Does that mean progress is bad? Because here are some other things we "made do" with in years gone-by:

Manual typewriters

Carbon paper

Z modems

Dial-up internet

Telexes

Three television channels

Flash cubes

Waiting for the Wizard of Oz to be shown on TV once a year

Mimeograph machines (although the smell was all kinds of awesome)

Outdoor plumbing

Pony Express

The Struggle to Understand Millennials in the Workplace

It's funny because in none of the above cases would we look back wistfully and tell people to accept the status quo. But only technological advancements seem to make the grade. Somehow scientific gizmos that make life easier for us are progress; cultural advancements that make work nicer are just soft. Nobody ever says, "We had to write ye-olde memos on parchment using a feather quill and an inkwell; so you should, too." Yet it somehow seems logical to say, "We had inhospitable workplaces back then. That's just the way it is."

Workplace innovation of all kinds come from people asking, why not, as in...Why not recognize that people have personal lives? Why not offer flex time? Why not consider families part of the work-success equation? Especially since it's becoming clear that people work better that way.

To their credit, Millennials in the workplace are asking those questions, getting rid of that tired old phrase, "but it's always been that way," and valuing cultural progress as much as technological progress.

And just as pioneers in smart phones and computers did, the goal will be to leave the workplace a little better than they found it. If the rest of us are smart...we'll let them.

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.