It’s a blue sky day in South Florida and Erik Bortzfield, a software marketing manager, would love to be ocean side on a beach chair connected to the Internet via laptop and aircard. A year out of college, Bortzfield, 23, has discovered the rules of the workplace typically don’t allow remote working, but he is convinced his generation will make it happen.
“When people my age start to own and manage companies, I think you’ll start to see a noticeable change,” he says.
The desire to work wherever, whenever has heated once again during the summer months as younger workers want to kick back a bit but find their boomer bosses clinging to an old-fashioned obsession with face time.
It’s not that Bortzfield and his young counterparts across the country don’t see value in coming to the office some of the time. But because they are networked, they believe reporting to an office from 9 to 5 every day in order to call and send emails to people in other places makes absolutely no sense. Many are asking: “Why are bosses insisting on face time?” — and planning for the day when they will make the office rules.
Millennials will be change makers, says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding. By 2025, Generation Y will make up roughly 75 percent of the world’s workforce, a Business and Professional Women’s Foundation study shows. With such a large presence, expect them to put pressure on companies to shift how people work, Schawbel says: “Gen Y wants to rip apart work styles and create new relationships with the office that are more flexible.”
Amanda DelPrete, a 24-year-old PR account executive, says her generation wants to use the technology advantage. In college, she and her friends took one or more courses online or sat in their dorms watching the live stream. “It was not mandatory for us to be physically in class,” she says. “Now, we come into the workplace and there’s an insistence on face time and we don’t get it. We’re more creative in our own space than in an office with no windows.”
Leadership consultant Jane Goldner says “overwork” also has fueled this generational conflict. When workers are expected to finish a project from home at midnight, they wonder why they aren’t permitted to complete other assignments from home during daylight hours. But older managers still put a high value on being seen in the office. They not only expect face time, they reward those who hang out in the office.
Goldner says boomer bosses trying to lead this new chaotic environment and still keep a handle on things will need to find a middle ground acceptable to all. Rather than just insist on face time, they will need to explain why it is important. “Without it, you might not be building the alliances you need to get ahead.” Even more, she adds: “When you work virtually, you don’t development face-to-face interpersonal skills. That’s a huge skill set missing in the workplace.”
Lizanne Thomas, partner in charge of Jones Day’s Atlanta office, says she’s made a specific effort this summer to work with law school interns and young associates on communication skills honed from personal interaction with partners. “I don’t want them to hide behind email or the written word. I want them to interact with me.”