Without giving away my exact age, I’ll admit that I’m a Gen X-er (ok, I’m in my 30s). This is the generation between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. My parents are traditional Boomers—in the same jobs for 30 years, divorced; while my siblings fit firmly into the more recent generation—especially my sister who is about 10 years my junior. She doesn’t remember life without the Internet or without back-to-back soccer schedules.
Soon, she will be entering the working world, and I’m sure she will not be ok with many of the office mainstays I’m used to—10 days vacation and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedules to name a couple. This got me thinking: how will her generation change business in the next five to 10 years?
1. Vacant offices
According to Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career, office environments will be mighty quiet in the next few years. “People will work at desks a lot less often; instead they will work from home, a coffee shop or a shared space,” she says.
In addition, companies will seamlessly expand to global locations without meeting co-workers in person. “We will have a lot more virtual workers who never come into the office at all,” she adds.
Technology will be at the heart of these changes. According to Pollak, companies will have the ability to purchase affordable technology that will allow for near 3-D teleconferencing. (Cisco’s TelePresence product already offers this.)
“They will be able to do what Wolf Blitzer does on CNN, it’s just a matter of time,” she says.
2. Constant employee/supervisor communication
The ‘everyone-gets-a-trophy’ mentality of many Millennial parents has made it a little tough on Millennial employers. The generation is used to constant feedback—they crave it and expect no less.
As Lisa Orrell, CPC, a San Jose, California-based generations consultant and author of Millennials Incorporated, explains, the new generation of workers will have close ties to bosses and require feedback much more often than in the customary yearly review.
“I recently read a study that reported 68 percent of Millennials want to check in with supervisors at least once per day in the form of e-mailing, texting or face-to-face conversation,” she says.
This can be a huge challenge for Baby Boomer bosses, says Pollak. She advises managers to sit down with younger workers and map out a plan for giving feedback.
“Maybe you could set up weekly meetings or 10-minute check-ins at the end of every day,” she offers. “I also highly recommend setting up mentorship programs, which can take the pressure off of you.”
3. Flexible work schedules
According to Maddy Dychtwald, co-founder and senior vice president for Age Wave, a think tank based in Emeryville, California, Millennials have a specific expectation of what is required in the workplace. “They expect that if they finish their work, they should be able to leave the office early; they don’t believe in punching a clock,” she says.
The good news? Since the generation is so attached to their smart phones, they are usually accessible even when out of the building. “Millennials have a very fuzzy line between social life and work life,” says Orrell. “They are demanding flexibility and smart companies are giving it to them. But as a business owner, don’t worry about them getting their work finished—they will stay up until midnight if they have to.”