Millennial Mythbusters

Millennial Mythbusters

By Alicia Deschamps, Rim Architects; AJ Jacobsen, CBRE; Erica Levine, ARUP; Kena David, BCCI; Verushka Doshi, Haworth

This article will also appear in The VIEW, the quarterly newsletter of Commercial Real Estate Women San Francisco (CREW SF). CREW SF’s mission is to develop and advance women as leaders in the commercial real estate industry. It is dedicated to changing business’ gender trends and closing the parity gap by giving women in real estate the support, resources, and opportunities they need to connect, influence, and lead. For chapter news, events and membership information visit crewsf.org.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat’s hotter than maple-bacon cupcakes and crop-tops? Frequently, it’s hating on the millennials that are into these ridiculous trends. It’s not hard; after all: we are lazy, self-absorbed, indecisive tech addicts…or are we?

Below, the CREW SF Rising Leaders share our take on some common millennial myths. The answers may surprise you.

Myth 1: Millennials are digital addicts. (answered by Verushka Doshi and Kena David)

Why it’s true:
Yes, millennials are digital addicts, but so are all other generations. In fact, according to a study by the IBM Institute for Business Values,(1) the differences between the baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials have been grossly exaggerated.

Why it’s false:
Millennials grew up with technology that has made the world accessible to everyone with Wi-Fi and the instant gratification that comes with a quick Internet search. Despite this world of knowledge at millennials’ fingertips, more and more we are seeing a trend of unplugging during non-working hours, for reasons of personal connection to others and immersing oneself in the natural world. (Of course, we need to plug back in for a few moments just so we can post the amazing things we experience on Instagram.)

Myth 2: Millennials are terrified of commitment. (answered by AJ Jacobsen)

Why it’s true:
Due to economic and corporate changes, jobs have become unstable and insecure. Even for long-time employees, layoffs are commonplace. A lack of company loyalty to employees causes prudent employees (and most millennials) to keep their options open. This creates unwillingness in millennials to commit to large purchases such as a house, and it can also make relationships difficult to manage. This and many other factors have changed the shape of the “traditional” life plan. Additionally, “collaborative” workplace ideals may have the side effect of making millennials less confident to make bigger decisions on their own.

Why it’s false:
Economic challenges and significant increases in the cost of living relative to income have made it very challenging for millennials to even consider buying a house, making renting more popular than before. An article in the New York Times (2) reveals that this is not unique to millennials; they are simply one of the first generations to be starting their lives in this new reality. Additionally, women choosing to work and build careers (as opposed to the “traditional” role of homemaking) gives those coming from a traditional viewpoint the impression that millennials aren’t willing to “commit,” when the reality is that they are just committed to something else.

Myth 3: Millennials are know-it-alls—yet uninformed. (answered by AJ Jacobsen)

Why it’s true:
In the fast-paced digital world, news comes in bits and pieces. Millennials are prone to catching a headline or tweet and basing their view on that brief wording. Friends and articles from a “trusted” source on social media are seen as fact and not researched. Therefore, millennials are prone to building their views on “facts” that they haven’t actually researched and often are not true, or are a twisted version of reality.

Why it’s false:
Millennials are thirsty to collaborate with experienced mentors and bosses. They look up to people with experience, but they want their guidance, not to simply be told what to do. Far more millennials are educated with college degrees, and access to information is at their fingertips. This means that the informed millennial may very well have gained far more information and knowledge in a shorter time than was historically possible. This leads them to want to work with someone, rather than assuming the traditional role of simply “putting in the time.”

Myth 4: Millennials don’t know how to work hard. (answered by Erica Levine)

Why it’s true:
Career advice from college counselors and seasoned businesspeople always boils down the same things: follow your passion! Do what you love! Make a difference! Shockingly, the passion of most millennials is not making copies. After buying into the promise of mission-driven work, it can be difficult for them to stomach the realization that landing the dream job starts out with some pretty heavy entry-level tedium. So yes, millennials are less willing to accept the grunt work that older generations accepted as part and parcel of the job. This unwillingness can lead them to switch companies, which is often viewed by older generations as a lack of company loyalty.

Why it’s false:
Just because millennials don’t want to do grunt work doesn’t mean that they don’t know how to work hard. As mentioned above, more millennials are educated with college degrees (3). Since they grew up with them, they also tend to have more comfort with newer technologies. The passion that leads millennials to switch companies in pursuit of their dreams also drives them to work hard once they land a job that fulfills that passion. All in all, millennials have a lot to offer, though this may be overlooked by older generations. That millennials stereotypically prefer different modes of communication (such as texting rather than calling) certainly doesn’t help with the recognition of their value.

Myth 5: Millennials avoid offices so that they can sit at home and be lazy. (answered by Erica Levine and Kena David)

Why it’s true:
Many millennial-dominated companies (such as the ever hip start-up) allow employees to work outside of the office and standard working hours, reducing the amount of time that employees spend at their desks. This can give off the impression that millennials are lazy slackers who can’t drag themselves out of bed. Millennials are more accustomed to remote collaboration and digital communication, which is only getting easier as telecommuting software improves. Besides, who doesn’t want to sleep until noon and then work in their PJs?

Why it’s false:
First off, many millennials do not avoid offices. In fact, many prefer to work in an office and during normal hours. They appreciate the in-office technology, collaboration with experienced colleagues, and physical separation between work and life.

Second, just because millennials aren’t working at their desk doesn’t mean that they aren’t putting in equal or longer hours elsewhere. Many of the start-ups that do allow flexible work schedules still demand longer hours overall.

Third, flexible working arrangements may actually increase employee effectiveness, allowing more work to get done in the same amount of time. Research indicates that working in an office is actually quite inefficient. Offices contain a myriad of distractions and interruptions, from Barbara’s phone conversation three feet away to the 18th scheduled meeting of the day. When completing a task that requires intense concentration, each interruption can require up to 23 minutes to get back in the zone.(4) People also work most effectively at different times of the day. Allowing Tina to work at 5 a.m. and Mike to work at midnight, free of interruption and during their most productive states of mind, improves the quality of their work and the efficiency with which they do it.

Myth 6: Millennials want be in the thick of it—and are willing to sacrifice to get there. (answered by Alicia Deschamps and Kena David)

Why it’s true:
Millennials want to be connected, and that means being physically near others. They prefer walking or biking to work, instead of long commutes from other cities. They prefer small apartments in the city over large houses in the suburbs, because then they are usually within walking distance to coffee shops, dry cleaners, bars, and restaurants. Why? Because millennials overall understand the immense value of time, and with less commuting time comes more free time. Free time to help achieve that coveted work-life balance everyone is always talking about.

Why it’s false:
The millennial generation grew up with the world at their fingertips. With access to world cultures and a global perspective, most millennials catch the travel bug. With the increase of the flexible, remote work schedule and technological advances, more millennials are taking time to travel the world while working on the road. For many, office life is becoming a way of the past, favoring the experiences that the world has to offer as opposed to city life.

Conclusion
The answers above show that many of these myths exist for a reason but can’t be generalized to every millennial or every situation. In fact, opinions differ even within the Rising Leaders, a relatively homogenous group of new real estate professionals. All in all, millennials are not homogenous and universally terrible—either that or we are as indecisive as everyone says.

1 “Myths, exaggerations and uncomfortable truths: the real story behind millennials in the workplace,” https://www-935.ibm.com/services/multimedia/GBE03637USEN.pdf
2 “More Americans Are Renting, and Paying More, as Homeownership Falls,” June 24, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/24/business/economy/more-americans-are-renting-and-paying-more-as-homeownership-falls.html
3 Pew Research Center, “Millennials On Track to be the Most Educated Generation to Date,” http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/03/19/how-millennials-compare-with-their-grandparents/ft_millennials-education_031715/
4 Tristan Harris, “How better tech could protect us from distraction,” https://www.ted.com/talks/tristan_harris_how_better_tech_could_protect_us_from_distraction

About the Authors
Alicia Deschamps works as a lead designer at RIM Architects to provide quality design for commercial and transportation projects across the Bay Area. In her free time, Alicia enjoys traveling near or far and as frequently as possible to enjoy new places, cultures, and cuisines.

AJ Jacobsen is currently a senior lease administration analyst with CBRE on the McKesson account, and has been with CBRE for over two years. Outside of work, she road-races motorcycles!

Erica Levine minimizes the environmental impact of the built environment as an energy consultant with Arup. Outside of the office, she spends her time backpacking, hiking, and climbing in California’s amazing outdoors.

Kena David is the sustainability manager at BCCI Construction Company, where she advises projects pursuing CALGreen, LEED, and WELL certification. She also maintains the sustainability commitments at BCCI, including the Building Health Initiative. In addition, she provides educational training on LEED, WELL, and other various sustainability frameworks.

Verushka Doshi brings over a decade of design experience and eight years in the contract furniture industry. Her focus is business development for Bay Area companies both small and large.

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