Generation Y wants to work at work

Is it really any surprise that young people want to work at work, rather than at home, or anywhere else? An article in this morning’s reports on a study of 19 blue-chip companies, including Barclays, Microsoft, Tesco and Pfizer by Advanced Workplace Associates that revealed that employees in the early stages of their careers prefer to work at the office in order to see and be seen.

Learning the ropes, making contacts and gaining recognition are important for Generation Y and they need to do this in the office. “As people become more established and have proven their abilities, they are more likely to support working flexibly or remotely as part of their working pattern,” explained Andrew Mawson, MD of Advanced Workplace Associates.

But there’s one important point that was missed. I think that younger people prefer to work in the office, because one of the other options – working at home is just not a possibility for many.

When people talk about homeworking they mention their fully-equipped home office with the desk, swivel chair and latest technology – either in the loft extension or at the bottom of the garden where they can get away from the kids. But many Gen Yers don’t live in those types of palatial surroundings. They might be in house shares with a large group of friends or living in temporary accommodation where there is no WiFi access or quiet space to work or make business phonecalls.

I met up with a potential client the other day at his swish offices in More London. His private Regus office had stunning views over gardens and towards Tower Bridge. The price tag was also impressive for what was essentially a start-up arm of an existing business. When I asked why he didn’t work remotely he pointed out that he lived in a house share with five other people, many of whom worked shifts and so were at home during the day watching TV or sleeping. Working from home, or using home as a base, wasn’t an option if he wanted to set his stall out as a professional business. I take his point. As a Gen Xer with young children, I’m not a big fan of homeworking when they’re also at home – and have been known to pack up the home office and decamp to the local library or café when the school bell rings for home time.

So it’s little surprise that the office is quite a draw for many younger people – and it puts the onus on the employer to look after these people, providing them with decent sustenance and a good environment to work and socialise.


Cathy Hayward