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Trust me, it’s a Friday

10th February 2017

To work from home, or not work from home? That is the question posed by Jon Meakin

Last week I attended a very productive and positive meeting of Grayling’s US leadership team, in New York. We covered a wide range of topics, the usual things that agency folk talk about, including employee satisfaction.

Now I’ve been in this industry long enough to realize there is nothing new about these conversations. How do you attract top talent? How do you keep them once you have them? These are the same things with which we’ve been wrestling since I was an account executive, using fax machines and 35mm transparencies, and stuffing press releases into envelopes.

But something was different this time.

Around the table of our 14th floor conference room was a group of Gen Xers like me... While most of the people we employ, or want to employ, are millennials. And there is a difference.

While none of my colleagues actually said “Huh! Young people today!” some were nevertheless clearly puzzled by the differences between the two generations. Much has been written about this subject, and it’s something we touch upon in our Live Smart or Die report, which examines the big four tensions that will impact us all in the next decade or more - one of these being Aging vs Youth.

But listening to the conversation, you would think we were discussing an alien species. And it got me thinking: Are millennials really so different from Gen Xers? OK, loyalty to an employer may be a thing of the past, but learning new skills? Work/life balance? I seem to remember wanting those things too, when I was sweating over the photocopier back in the day.

Let me say here and now, I like working with millennials. They are unafraid to challenge (which some Gen Xers misinterpret this as a sense of self-importance) and are largely direct about what they want and expect from management (which some misinterpret as a sense of entitlement). I think that’s kind of refreshing.

Our discussion got really interesting when it turned to the subject of employee benefits. I’ve been with Grayling for four years, and one of the things I have always enjoyed about working here is that everyone is treated like an adult. There is a recognition that just because you’re not in the office, it doesn’t mean you’re not working. Come in, don’t come in, just get the work done.

But I did sense some hesitation among some of my colleagues when it came to our millennial colleagues. Do they take advantage of this flexibility? Can they be trusted?

The answer? Of course you can trust them. Indeed, I would argue that you have to trust them. Because however important those of us sitting around that conference table might like to think we are, it is our millennial colleagues who are on the front line, creating content, writing copy, pitching to journalists, monitoring and moderating social media, compiling reports… often all at the same time. We rely on them for our success. And take it from someone who is surrounded by millennials every day – they take this stuff seriously.

As I write this, it’s a Friday afternoon in San Francisco. I’m in the office, along with one other colleague. For historic reasons, our West Coast teams have a tradition of working from home on a Friday, but they are working – the green lights of Outlook and Skype for Business tell me so. And I see the work they are delivering for clients, even late into the evening, as has been the case this week.

The point is this: It matters not whether you are a Gen Xer or a millennial, if you’re not willing to work hard, you’ll get found out pretty quickly, and that directness I appreciate so much will see you being called out on it.

You want to work from home on Friday? Go right ahead. Just turn up for work.

Jon Meakin

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