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No More 9 to 5: Millennials and Flexibility at Work

Millennials and flexibility at work

RIP, nine-to-fives. The traditional workday is dead.

Perhaps I should apologize. After all, I'm one of the murderers. As a millennial, I'm a member of the mob that is collectively putting a torch to the conventional way of working.

But I'm not sorry about it. Actually, I couldn't be happier about the shift in priority that's happening in workplaces all around the world. It means I get to work at a company that not only accommodates the madness of my life, but also inspires me to achieve above and beyond what's expected of me.

Because when I'm given some freedom to set my own schedule, I can take more ownership in my career, and that makes me love my job.

Lend me a hand as I step on my soapbox.

“I Can Do It Myself!”

Millennials at work

As the youngest generation in the workforce, millennials are often treated like the baby of the family. When we succeed, we're called cute and given a patronizing pat on the head. When we fail, we're met with a shake of the head and an exasperated “I told you so.”

But the worst is when we try something new. Sometimes it seems that when millennials challenge the status quo, our ideas are dismissed just because we're young and supposedly don't know what we're doing yet.

Of course older generations are going to feel they know best. In many cases, they do. But change itself isn't bad, and that's something my generation has embraced–perhaps a bit too vigorously.

In typical baby-of-the-family fashion, millennials hate hand-holding. Our “I can do it myself!” attitude translates to all areas of life, especially career. We don't like being told what to do by our parents, and we don't like being told what to do by our bosses.

That doesn't mean we don't respect those above us or recognize where we fall in the pyramid of job positions (although, as my own employers often reiterate, rigid hierarchies in business usually aren't helpful anyway).

What it does mean is that we like to have some autonomy in deciding when and where we want to work. And contrary to popular belief, that autonomy doesn't make us lazy–in fact, it makes us more inspired to succeed.

Give Us Space, and We'll Deliver

Workplace flexibility

Last month, 9 Clouds brofounder John Meyer wrote an excellent blog post, “How to Inspire Millennials,” in response to the recent backlash experienced by millennials in the workplace. As the founder of a startup comprised entirely of millennials, he finds that my generation is far more motivated than people assume–we're just motivated by different things.

According to him, “Millennials are not entitled, but they are impatient. They want things now.”

In a world where we can do anything with the click of a mouse, we've been conditioned to get things done at our own convenience. And while that might come across as demanding, it's really just efficient. Because when we work at our own pace, we're more likely to put more effort into what we're doing, since we feel we had a hand in deciding to do it.

In fact, research shows that employees actually work harder when they're out of office in order to negate the impression that they're slacking off. I like to think it's all part of that wanting-to-prove-ourselves mentality we millennials have.

Plus, now that technology has infused practically every aspect of every job, working remotely has never been easier. In fact, in a job like mine, sometimes it just makes sense. At 9 Clouds, most of our work is accomplished online. We even use internal services like Slack and Basecamp to communicate digitally even when we're sitting right next to each other in the office.

So if one of us is going out of town for the weekend or just needs to focus from home for the morning, we're able to get all our tasks done from afar, while still staying in touch with the team. Of course, we don't want to abuse this privilege, but it's such a relief to simply have the option if we're ever in a pinch.

Let me tell you, as someone who's planning her own destination wedding for the fall–not to mention all the other out-of-town weddings and mini-vacations I've got lined up for the summer–having a flexible work schedule has been a total lifesaver. I've been trying to ration my vacation days for my wedding and honeymoon, so when I have needed a day off, I've been able to either work ahead or work remotely so that I don't have to burn up my paid leave before I need to.

Plus, I'll be honest, I'm not much of a morning person. If I had to be at work at 8 a.m. sharp every day, I'd likely be slumping over my keyboard by 10. But I'd happily work until 6 or 7 if it meant I could come in late or take a long lunch when I want to. And that's exactly what I do. It's so much easier to wake up in the morning–and look forward to coming to work–knowing that no one is keeping two eyes on the clock, ready to pounce on me when I arrive.

I honestly don't know what I would do if I had a regular nine-to-five job–let alone if I had other time-consuming responsibilities, like children to care for, on top of it all. Life is nuts. And businesses should understand that.

I'm so grateful I get to work at one that does.

How to Hire a Millennial

Interview millennials

I'm not the only person who feels this way about work. My entire generation is with me.

Surveys show that millennials value flexibility at work more than almost any other benefit. If given the choice between flexibility and salary, about half of millennials would take flexibility (Millennial Branding). Three-quarters believe flexibility would make them more productive at work (Bentley University).

In fact, millennials would take pay cuts, give up promotion opportunities, and even move their families to another city just to be able to work flexibly (Ernst & Young).

So if you're hoping to hire a millennial, start by asking them about their priorities. When I was interviewing for my current position at 9 Clouds, I was asked to rank a list of benefits from most- to least-preferred. Naturally, I chose flexibility as one of my top priorities. And happily, 9 Clouds was able to accommodate that.

If you're interviewing a millennial candidate you love, consider working with them as much as you can. If your business model won't allow for flexibility, that's that–but just know you might be missing out on some serious talent. Because even if you offer competitive wages or awesome health insurance, if you aren't willing to give millennials a little bit of leeway, they'll likely move on to someone who will.

So bye-bye, nine-to-fives. Workplace flexibility is the way of the future.

Want to learn more about our unique culture at 9 Clouds? Read my blog post on my first week of work.

Image: Mindaugas Danys