3 Factors Driving Millennials' Flexible Working Demands

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The evidence supporting employee demand for flexible working arrangements is overwhelming, especially when it comes to millennials. A recent survey by Ernst & Young shows that millennials highly value flexible work and are the most likely generation to change jobs, give up promotions, move to a new city or take a pay cut to have flexibility in their work. To them, flexibility is not about having more time off, but a philosophical difference about how they view the necessity of a physical presence to get work done. A study from Bentley University shows that 77 percent of millennials say flexible working would make the workplace more productive for people their age.

When you look at the data from the point of view of the HR team, the trend is even more apparent. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) research shows the work-life balance issue is seen by 41 percent of HR professionals surveyed as a "moderate or large" threat to the organization, and that the threat is even greater for large organizations.

So the question is, "What are the factors driving millennials to want a flexible schedule?"

Here are three main trends driving the desire for more flexibility.

1. Low Employee Loyalty

According to The Atlantic, millennial workers have little loyalty to employers, with 60 percent of all millennials changing jobs every three years or less. The same article points out that PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) surveyed millenials in their own organization and found that they didn't believe performance should be measured by hours in the office. The feeling is that if millennials cannot achieve an acceptable work-life balance, they simply look for another job. Millennials act more like free agents than long-term employees.

2. Social Collaboration Technology

A second factor is social collaboration. Millennials use mobile phones and social collaboration tools as a normal part of their personal lives. Anytime. Anywhere. They want that same collaborative flexibility at work. The ADP Research Institute® Evolution of Work: The Changing Nature of the Global Workplace report bears this notion out, showing that millennials expect to use social collaboration tools at work and expect to be able to work from anywhere.

3. The Pursuit of Meaning

The Evolution of Work report also reveals that millennials are "guided by a search for meaning or doing important work rather than by simply earning a paycheck with good benefits," and they want the freedom to pursue that both personally and professionally. They view a flexible work schedule as the key to pursue their mission. When an organization does not offer flexible work arrangements, millennials will simply find an organization that does.

An Evolution in the Workplace

The demand for flexible work schedules is already changing the face of many organizations. A survey by WorldatWork showed that 80 percent of organizations offer flexible work arrangements, and data from the US Census Bureau shows that the number of people working at home at least once a week increased by 4.2 million between 1997 and 2010.

But organizations can do more than just offer more flex time. For instance, Linkedin and Netflix offer unlimited vacation policies, and according to WP Elevation, many organizations are embracing an idea called a "Results-Only Work Environment," designed to measure teams by performance, rather than hours worked in the office.

Making this all possible is the rapid adoption of mobile- and cloud-based enterprise social networks. These modern work tools are put in place so more employees can work from anywhere and still communicate and collaborate easily. Even Facebook is launching enterprise software called "Facebook at Work" to capitalize on the trend, according to CIO.

Millennials Disrupting the Organization

The millennial generation is disrupting the traditional organizational structure by being less loyal to the organization and more loyal to the pursuit of work-life balance. Millennials are intolerant of rigid work environments and will simply go work somewhere else to find what they're after. Organizations who take the time to understand this trend and the feelings behind it should be able to find ways to accommodate and retain the vital, young talent needed to remain competitive.