Flexible work situations are not just for Millennials

While the younger generation recognizes the benefits of self-directed work hours, Baby Boomers wanting to stay in the workforce also appreciate the change from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. a more unstructured work week.

In the former Soviet Union, the joke was that “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.” Meaning that the employees had low productivity and were paid low wages. In the United States before the great recession, it was noted that “Employers pay us enough so we do not quit and we work enough so they won’t fire us.” A better situation, but still problematic. A better solution for this relationship has been brought forward by Millennials – intrinsic motivation.

Being connected and understanding the “why” will lead to embracing the company’s sense of purpose. Communicating that the company is solving problems for clients, customers and the world, in general, provides for happy and committed employees.

This is ever more important as a 2016 Deloitte survey found that 25 percent of this generation would gladly quit in the next year. 44 percent expect to leave in 2 years and over two-thirds will be working somewhere else in just 5 years. While having a “job for life” is not a realistic assumption. Retention of trained and motivated employees leads to higher productivity.

Enter (or not exit) the Baby Boomers from this employment mix. Not surprisingly those over the age of 50 want a flexible work experience also. NxAvenue blog in September 2016, reports that 97 percent of Boomers want flexible jobs. They cite flexibility as the number 1 factor when evaluating job prospects. Benefits like; telecommunicating, non-traditional schedules, part-time gigs and freelancing, which all can lead to a better work/life balance.

The University of Minnesota found that lower stress, which can promote better health was enhanced by 82 percent, just by working at home. The Baby Boomer generations do not want to fully retire, but work for an employer that allows them to stay active and engage with flexible work options. This offers employers the opportunity to utilize Boomers’ skills and talents to increase productivity and act as mentors for younger workers.

Any business moving beyond a one person shop will need employees. As the job market tightens and with the labor participation rate declining, the talent pool or both Millennials and Boomers should be duly recognized for its availability and their needs.

Michigan State University Extension Educators working with the MSU Product Center help businesses play for workforce needs as a component of business planning. 


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