Millennials are Changing the Meaning of “Flexibility” at Work

September 26, 20192 minute read

In any discussion on talent – such as the discussion by panelists in the CSCMP mega session powered by AWESOME – the word “flexibility” comes up as something employees expect in their jobs. An article in the New York Times explores the idea that millennials may be the main ones changing the perspective on flexible work routines, but not the only ones.

Drawing from interviews with experts and recent research, the article, titled “Young People Are Going to Save Us All from Office Life,” says younger employees don’t see flexibility as just being able to leave early occasionally – but having the ability and autonomy to shape their work routine around their life.

According to the authors Claire Cain Miller and Sanam Yar, “In a survey of 11,000 workers and 6,500 business leaders by Harvard Business Review and Boston Consulting Group, the vast majority said that among the new developments most urgently affecting their businesses were employees’ expectations for flexible, autonomous work, better work-life balance and remote working.”

In analyzing the changing expectations, the authors suggest one reason may be “Millennials were the first generation raised by women who entered professions in big numbers…They’ve watched what’s happened to the generations before them.”

Those who prioritize flexibility tend to have college degrees and white-collar careers and interestingly, “it’s no longer just mothers of young children who are using flexible schedules. Women get penalized when that happens – social scientists call it the flexibility stigma – and their careers often never recover in terms of pay or promotions. But if more fathers and people who aren’t parents ask for flexibility, the stigma could lessen.”

The Pew Research Center found that of people 18 to 29, men were more likely than women to say that flexibility is the work arrangement that would be most helpful to people. People without children at home were as likely to say that as parents were.

A survey by Werk found that older employees are just as likely as younger people to want flexibility, but fewer ask for it.