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Millennials are Working

Rise and Shine, Ready to Work in San Diego
Rise and Shine, Ready to Work in San DiegoBy Jon Sullivan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Despite the abundant employment reports and labor statistics that point toward the idleness of the largest emerging workforce, millennials are working, they just work differently and often never stop working. Of course judging millennials based on federal unemployment numbers merely represents a small segment of the age group-in fact most of which are not even seeking employment. Really, that is the point that other generations find bothersome or simply don’t understand. There is a perception that millennials don’t work. At least visibly hard enough it seems by opting not to participate in the rat race, commuting long distances, working in a cubicle or small office on the 46th floor until 9pm. To the GenX’ers and Baby Boomers, there is no motivation, direction or no practicality in millennials career paths. The previous generations have been classically trained to “climb the ladder”, but millennials-they are busy building an elevator to the top.

The majority of the employers and employees now comfortably take full advantage of our ability to constantly work and consistently be in communication utilizing smartphones, tablets and other technological tools in our virtual briefcases. Since millennials have had technology in their hands since birth, working with these tools is almost second nature and subsequently millennials are incredibly efficient with new technology. Working with each other and being socially connected while working is also an emerging critical element that is desirous of millennials. This necessity is evident in the popularity of the “coffice” concept or collaborative work-spaces that have sprung up and spread around San Diego County (and nationally).

In San Diego the largest growth sectors in business include the bio-medical, biotech, healthcare, and technology industries where co-working and collaborative work-space is an essential element in working with both local and global partners and investors. The corporate real estate industry has caught on to this trend which initially was in response to the real estate crash and a logical way to diversify the use of empty office space, opening the regular office hour doors to networking groups and even classes.
The San Diego Co-Working Alliance has created a network of collaborative and co-working spaces throughout the county listing more than 20 locations catering to start-ups (including incubators and accelerators) in technology and biotech as well as welcoming all entrepreneurs, the most common “job title” for today’s millennials.

Being an entrepreneur has never been better suited to a specific generation; millennials tend to take risks and only want to work doing something that has purpose. Many speculate this philosophy arose from the previous generations displaying a burned out attitude toward their job or career often discovering they have earned little security (with no long term employment guarantees or retirement benefits) prompting millennials to be the generation that makes a difference, that does what they love and doesn't accept less. It may be risky, but so far its working for thousands of college graduates. The philosophy is simple, if you can’t get a job (with the company you want), make a job doing what you are good at and that involves purpose.

Unfortunately the side effect of the grandiose career launch for millennials has been echoed by employers as possessing entitlement right out of the hiring gate. Employment managers have reported the most important working conditions require (in order of importance), high pay (75%), flexible working schedules (61%), annual promotions and ample vacation time. Careerbuilder provided the results of this survey tallied from employment managers which could also mean that “entitlement” actually means time management is a higher priority than it has ever been at work, long term employment is not even mentioned in the survey.

When you look back at the annual lists of Best Places to Work over the last five years companies like Google, SAS, Intuit, REI and Zappos have consistently been praised for the priority placed on the employees and their overall wellness which in turn promoted productivity. Companies that chose to invest in their employees directly versus through traditional management attract more talent and are able to retain quality employees, adding profiting by putting back the human in HR.

In fact developing these more modern utilitarian corporate office spaces from older industrial or stiffly corporate cubicle environments has become a secure investment for the corporate real estate market recently. Recently San Diego developers like Denis Cruzan have begun grand plans like his Carlsbad redevelopment of the old Floral Trade Center into what will be called “Make” and has been described as a “concourse of big and small companies focused on interaction throughout the over 150,000 square foot warehouse building on Avenida Encinas which has been vacant since April. Having an onsite gym, meals on demand, free Wi-Fi throughout are now becoming standard, like eco-friendly lighting and energy, but with funky roll-up type doors (such as “Make” will have), and graffiti walls, karaoke breaks, ping pong tournaments and of course hack-athons, work and play can be integrated for an inspired and progressive office environment.

The co-working collaborative and virtual workplace environments are not just being utilized by the millennial generation, especially in San Diego where individuals with established companies, esteemed attorneys, financial managers and other traditional professional fields find using this type of space makes more sense and gives them an opportunity to grow and network that other corporate office space does not provide. These types of offices are both impressive in the traditional visual corporate sense, but they do not require the exorbitant costs normally required because the space and services are prorated based on need and use, ideal for a fluctuating or independent schedule (besides ping pong is appropriate for all generations and professions).

Millennials are bold risk takers who are welcomed into a changing traditionalist work environment and told to fit into the mold, but they never will and that is why many end up forging their own path by becoming entrepreneurs or searching for the “right job”. Having high standards (not entitlement) is not something that should be condemned in the business world, but embraced and put to work. Today Fortune published a recent discussion with attorney and author Lauren Stiller Rikleen which emphasizes the need of “corporate America to adapt to millennials” not the other way around. It’s obvious that the way we work, the location and hours have all changed dramatically in the last decade, but the workspace itself has been slow to respond in evolving, at least until now. Proof is in the progress, despite negative reports about millennials not going to work, millennials are working, but having some fun and living life while doing it. Who’s working smarter now?