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May 24, 2010 / Mervyn Dinnen

Generation Standby…do you Home from Work??

I love a Generational classification. Readers of this blog would have seen me write about Boomers, Generations X, Y and R and even create my own…Generation Bowie.

So I couldn’t resist the chance to write about Generation Standby…not least because this one has little to do with when you were born. It probably covers many of us.

This is the generation of workers who are socially and technologically never disconnected. They never fully switch off from either home or work and expect flexibility from employers in return for longer working hours.

They don’t have a problem with this, because they balance it with ‘homing’ from work – performing personal tasks such as checking social networks, e-mail, shopping online.

Sound familiar? Can anyone identify with this?

I read this mainly from a survey by software security company Clearswift, and some findings that interested me are:

–        66% of all employees who ‘home from work’ say they make the time up by working later or through lunch

–        Men are more likely than Women to ‘home from work’…higher percentages for checking social networking, dealing with personal e-mails and shopping online

–        79% said over and above the role and salary, the most important thing in a job was being trusted to manage their own time, and being trusted to use the internet as they wish

I’ve often thought that companies need to give employees more flexibility and trust, whether it’s how they use social media for work (primarily blogging) or how they manage their time whilst at work, so was not surprised that almost 4 out of 5 want that flexibility.

I did read a blog late last year (sorry there’s no link, but I can’t remember where I read it, maybe someone can post a link) where one of the predictions for social media this year was that employees will begin to expect ‘Social Media Breaks’ for a few minutes 3 or 4 times during a day…a bit like ‘Cigarette Breaks’ used to be. Grab a coffee and take 5/10 minutes out to see what people are saying…

…it would certainly require a leap of faith from employers.

What is clear is that technology has offered us a completely new way of working…longer hours maybe, flexible locations definitely, but it’s also a different kind of work where we are socially and technologically always connected.

I’m interested to know how employers are going to adapt to this…any ideas?

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6 Comments

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  1. Stephen O'Donnell / May 25 2010 9:11 AM

    I can really relate to this.

    I think it could signal the end of being paid by the hour, in many cases, when an indeterminate proportion of time is spent “homing from work”.
    I reckon presenteeism ( http://bit.ly/qiNS ) is being well nourished by social media access via work internet, in addition to those who are simply avoiding going home when they should.

  2. Michael Carty / May 25 2010 11:53 AM

    Very good post, Mervyn, and very interesting questions it raises, too!

    Is “homing from work” a blurring-too-far of the distinction between work and home life? Or is it a way for employees to “take the power back”?

    I remember a scene from the film Swimming with the Sharks from a decade or so back, in which the Kevin Spacey character says something to the effect that when you’re issued with a pager it doesn’t mean that you’ve arrived, it just means they have you on a shorter leash. Cut to 2010, and it would seem the tables have been turned to some extent. There appears to be a growing expectation on the part of some workers that the employer should consider relinquishing or at least loosening their grip on said metaphorical leash.

    As with most other aspects of the rapid evolution of social media in the workplace, watching how this topic develops will be extremely interesting!

  3. Michael Carty / May 25 2010 12:07 PM

    Just remembered a study from a year or so back that looked at this topic from the perspective of new graduates: http://www.xperthr.co.uk/blogs/employment-intelligence/2009/01/social-networking-at-work-a-ri.html

  4. Steve Levy / May 25 2010 11:48 PM

    I wonder what employees will smell like after their social media breaks?

    Will people crave the foods that others are talking about?

    Will they be planning their after work rituals based upon what they see on FourSquare?

    Will their opinions be swayed because hundreds of their BFFs are talking about the same article?

    Will they be waiting all-a-tither for their next break to read what Guy Kawasaki and his bands of Twitterers believe is important?

    The reality is that socially and technologically, all generations experience this and find a way to blend – and companies adapt along with them.

    Work is still work even after the buzzwords change…

  5. Andy Turner / May 26 2010 10:18 AM

    Wasn’t it ever thus? Before we had social networks and smart phones, we used to use company time and phones/faxes/copiers for personal stuff. Now it’s just easier. I think the key point here is that HR needs to set down the ground ‘rules’ without sounding too stuffy, remembering the maxim that if you treat employees like children, they’ll probably behave that way. There’s a role for the IT dept here too. I came across a company recently whose IT network crashed (including it’s business-critical CRM system) because a large number of employees logged on to a US website at the same time to watch live streaming of Tiger Woods playing in the US Open!

    You might be interested in this recent article from Director magazine on ‘ROWE’ (results-only work environment).

    http://bit.ly/aOo72x

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