Following a survey of 3,842 staff and managers and a series of intergenerational discussion groups, the research finds that while two thirds of managers believe that technology and the rise of flexible working will change the way we work entirely, many younger people, including those still at school, still yearn for a more traditional workplace with traditional working hours.
According to the report, six out of ten 14-18 years olds say they are looking forward to the ‘community of work’ and cite socialising as the single biggest factor outside of remuneration for wanting to start work. A third of 14-18 year olds also say that joining the workforce will help them to avoid boredom, expressing fears of becoming lonely in a home working environment. Meanwhile one in five 16-25 year olds guard against flexible working practices reducing a sense of community at work – a figure which drops to just 15% of those who have been working for two decades or more.
David Cumberbatch, director at business psychology firm Xancam, says: “Attracting and retaining talent is difficult enough without the different values, expectations and attitudes that are expected from Generation Y. Employers need to work hard to think and act in ways that will get the best out of Generation Y: not only to know where trouble could be brewing, but to be successful in inspiring and developing talented individuals. Employers need to identify those with potential and be as restless as the Gen Y’ers themselves when helping them develop their careers. Only then will businesses be successful in retaining, motivating and engaging them.”
The fashion among business commentators and technology companies is to claim that techno-savvy young people are hell-bent on usurping tradition and are leading the charge away from the office and the nine-to-five routine. To some extent this is true. Working cultures are changing, creating new kinds of companies and employees. But the findings of this report demonstrate that managers should also proceed with caution and patience because there is still a strong connection, especially among younger people, to the sense of community that a traditional workplace can provide. It is all about striking the right balance and creating the right remote working policies.
There is also evidence within the report, however, that attitudes change as workers enter their thirties, when the focus shifts away from colleagues and towards local community. This group is more grateful for the flexibility that remote and home working can provide. While over half of 16-25 years old believe that socialising inside and outside of work is both important and enjoyable, older workers said that they no longer prioritise making friends in the workplace and prefer to spend time with family and non-work friends (the proportion of older people believing that socialising is important drops to just one third).
Peter Kelly, Enterprise Director, Vodafone UK said: “Flexible working means different things to different people and we must be careful not to make assumptions. The great promise of technology is to allow people to work in the way that makes them the most productive and happy. Many assume that because the young are more tech-savvy that they will want to use technology to re-define their work environment, and indeed they may. However we should not forget that being around colleagues, collaborating with customers, partners and peers face to face, and socialising with these people are also very important aspects of working life. Flexible working should not solely mean remote or virtual working – it should be about having the right tools and information accessible wherever you choose to work. ”
Vodafone Working Nation, now in its fifth year, is a major ongoing study created by Vodafone UK to chronicle the attitudes and trends that shape the United Kingdom at work. The series is used by Vodafone UK to examine its own working practices, help develop new products and services and to create a better understanding of the modern management and workplace issues impacting its customers day-to-day and in the future.