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Generation Y

Manage Work From Home: Make It Work For Everyone

Did you hear about the guy who outsourced his job to China so he could spend time at his desk watching cat videos and keeping up with Facebook? There are a lot of things to say about this, but my first thought is, “Now there’s a guy who could be working from home.” If the work could be done, and done well, from China, the only reason to be at an office is because he liked the social interaction. But that office could save money by not buying him a chair.

Did you hear about the guy who outsourced his job to China so he could spend time at his desk watching cat videos and keeping up with Facebook? There are a lot of things to say about this, but my first thought is, “Now there’s a guy who could be working from home.” If the work could be done, and done well, from China, the only reason to be at an office is because he liked the social interaction. But that office could save money by not buying him a chair.

Work from home policies have been taking some heat lately. Some big name companies have publicly discontinued programs. I find it all a little confusing. I work from home. I know other people who work from home. We’re all productive and happier for it. Gen Y, the employees everyone wants to understand so they can hire and keep, wants to work from home.

So, why all this negativity surrounding remote worker programs?

In the cases of both Best Buy and Yahoo, the end of work from home comes when the companies are failing and working towards a turn around. If work from home has to be discontinued to get a company back on its feet, it strikes me that the home work probably wasn’t being managed properly in the first place.

Gen Y wants to work from home

A late 2011 PwC survey shows that the Millennial workforce expects  good work/life balance, already 28% of them are disillusioned. They expect the use of technology to make their jobs easier and 41% prefer electronic communication at work to face to face communication. What does this all mean? Gen Y wants to work from home.

Discontinuing your work from home program is not a good way to attract young talent. It might be your best way to lose talent. Do not insist Millennials sit at desks when it’s clear to them that the work could be done off site; they will not continue to work from that desk or for you.

If you don’t know how to manage work from home so it works for your employees while also working for your company, then it’s time to figure it out.

Notes to managers

If your organization wants to recruit and retain Millennial employees, you need to manage your program so it works for both employees and the organization.

When the CEO of Yahoo discontinued their work from home program stating it was in response to needing better productivity, she was criticised by Sara Sutten Fell, CEO of Flexjobs, for canceling an entire program across the board. Perhaps work from home wasn’t right for all Yahoo employees who were working from home, but to cancel the entire program seems rash.

Of course, it’s easy to blame the CEO, but who was managing those under producing teams?

Managers, I know you want to be advocates for your employees, and good for you on that. But, that doesn’t mean that everyone gets to work from home. If you can’t deliver on productivity with employees out of the office, someone over your head whose main focus is business resources and return on investment will shut down your work from home program. And that’s not good for anyone.

Tips for managing work from home

We all want you to get this right. You want productive companies with happy employees. You want to be able to attract and keep the Millennials while improving the bottom line. So, here are a few tips for managing remote workers:

  • Hire the right employees: Not everyone has the self discipline to work from home; make sure you have the right person for the job.
  • Make it secure: Be sure you have the systems and networks in place to make sharing remotely safe and legal.
  • Communicate: Keep in touch regularly, make yourself available for questions and feedback. Understand what’s working and what could be improved for remote employees to succeed.
  • Provide web-based collaboration tools: Working remotely doesn’t mean employees are in a silo; provide them tools to interact with the team.
  • Schedule face to face time: Get together in person for kick-off meetings or staff development. Strengthening connections with face to face meetings will help to keep your employees engaged and understanding where they fit on the larger team.

When you are managing a team, you need to recognize when it makes sense for employees to work from home and when it doesn’t  Some jobs can be done away from the office, others can’t. Some employees can be productive if given an assignment with a deadline and left to their own devices. Some employees are most productive in a more structured environment.

Bottom line, it isn’t a one size fits all, even within the same department. Not allowing employees to work from home because it doesn’t work for everyone is asinine; it will hurt your bottom line, which means managers need to make it work for their organization and their employees.

Working from home is about more than making it easy for your employees and saving Millennials from buying a professional wardrobe; it’s about managing company resources properly. Happy employees are more productive and loyal; managing work from home so it works is win win.

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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