As a group, young workers need more direction than in the past, and think about the workplace differently than older employees. Mark Childs shows how flexible work and forward-thinking management results in increased wellbeing for the organisation.
Young Office Workers

Society at large — not just helicopter parents — has influenced today’s mindset that children and young people need supervision at every step towards adulthood.1 But mollycoddling keeps them from learning how to solve their own problems, survive failure, deal effectively with criticism and take reasonable risks.

This era of young adults who are less practised at taking responsibility for themselves has caused huge employee engagement challenges for UK organisations. In order to remain competitive, they need to fully understand, accept and address the vital importance of all their people to business success.

Using insights to feel in flow with employees

Most employers have five generations of people working alongside each other — with very different needs. Millennials are quickly becoming the most influential, but leaders often struggle to identify with these younger workers.

At every age, emotional wellbeing should command a level of attention that equals the more familiar focus on physical wellbeing. These aspects are interrelated, so it’s important to get to grips with what strengthens and weakens them both. Employee behavioural insights are key because they allow better alignment of benefits with the diverse value sets of a multigenerational workforce.

Supporting the ‘what’s in it for me?’ generation

The younger millennial and Gen Z members of the workforce are not as obsessed as their parents with making money. Many rent rather than buy homes, and ownership matters less overall. Where work is concerned, they care about non- material as well as material benefits and perks — including what employers are doing to help ensure work-life balance.

Having grown up more dependent on others, these employees often need more mentoring to adapt well to their workplace — along with structured escapes from the pressures of the environment. Office relaxation areas are one opportunity for reducing stress, and findings from one study show these spaces are the key to increased productivity for 1 in 5 workers.2 Flexible working practices and greater tolerance of short leave notice are among many other options for supporting physical and emotional wellbeing. And unpaid leave can also prove valuable in promoting loyalty. For example, employers could allow employees to ‘boomerang’ by building credit for sabbaticals over time.

Whilst these benefits make organisational sense, the knock-on effect is a trend towards employees favouring industries that can offer more fluid work practices. In this situation, sectors such as manufacturing, transportation and hospitality that are locked into more traditional work patterns face a tougher struggle to find talent.

Line managers as influencers

The government’s apprenticeship scheme is effectively another form of employee mentoring. However, the quality of coaching provided by these programmes varies hugely. As an alternative, stronger investment in line management would support apprenticeships as well as the physical and emotional wellbeing of all employees.

Growing recognition that line managers are crucial to employee wellbeing, engagement and resilience is evident from the increased availability of guidelines and tools for helping employers develop and strengthen this influential function. Some established sources include the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)3, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)4, and the mental health charity Mind5.

In fact, line managers seem perfectly placed to prepare millennials and the rest of the workforce to adapt to their workplace in a healthy way. With the right investment and organisational support, they’re equipped to help employees manage the inevitable uncertainty and other challenges of the changing economic environment.

  1. Psychology Today, ‘Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges’, September 2015
  2. Dale Office Interiors, ‘Space to Relax at Work is the Key to Increased Productivity for 1 in 5 Office Workers’, accessed October 2018
  3. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, ‘Promoting mental wellbeing at work overview’, accessed September 2018
  4. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), ‘Knowledge hub’, accessed September 2018
  5. Mind, ‘Workplace,’ accessed September 2018