At age 23, I joined corporate America after trading in my low-paying — yet exciting — job as a cops reporter at a daily newspaper for $12,000 more a year and better benefits. I hated it. I stuck it out a year to avoid putting a 3-month stint on my resume and eventually took a $10,000-paycut to return to the reporting world. My “desk job” wasn’t a fit for a variety of reasons. What I hated most, however, was being glued to my chair from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., no matter my workload. Although I was a copy editor, which can be done from any location, working from home, arriving five minutes late or leaving early was a huge no, no. Employees watched one another closely, bragged about who stayed the latest, who arrived first and made sure to mention colleagues’ early departures to their supervisors. Sure, they were probably playing solitaire or checking MySpace accounts — it was 2004 — but they were in the office at 7:30 a.m.
After about three months, it was clear I did not have enough work to fill the obligatory hours and begged my boss for more. He obliged and ended up giving me a lot of his work, which I was happy to do. Anything beat watching the clock slowly tick away.
The corporate company, stuck in its old-school roots, didn’t care what I did with my time as long as I was in my chair. I was a recent college grad stuck in world of boomers, who thought it was “adorable” that I was so “ambitious and un-jaded.” I tried to explain to my baby-boomer boss how archaic this type of work environment was, but he wasn’t ready to buck the system. Although he was one of the VPs of the company, he had spent his career following this type of regime and was happy to continue doing it.
No amount of money could have kept me in that environment, and it seems most millennials agree. According to Daniel Franklin, executive editor of The Economist, who was interviewed for Yahoo Finance, Millennials aren’t putting in long days just for the sake of saying, “I stayed late last night.”
“There is a thought that the new machismo is not going to be to stay at work every hour that is available,” said Franklin. “Spending less time at the job will allow people to strike a better balance between their work and home life.”
Some people, however, will see this trend as a way for lazy millennials to hit happy hour a bit early, but less time in the office does not equal less productivity. It actually has the opposite effect, said Franklin. “People will focus on what can be done effectively in the time available at work. If you shrink the hours that people are at work then they will get their work to fit into the time available,” he said.
When employees don’t feel guilty for never seeing their kids or aren’t stressed about hitting the gym in order to stay healthy, they work harder and are much more productive.
Creating a new workday
Leaving work early or working from home won’t equal lazy workers. Instead, early exits will symbolize efficient workers or at least will not automatically mean they are ditching. Maybe they just need a change of scenery in order to think more creatively.
Millennials can be a company’s hardest-working group of employees if bosses understand what motivates them. Most millennials in corporate environments will exceed expectations if given trust, freedom and flexibility.