The Millennial Workforce � Working With Them or Against Them

This article was featured in our May email newsletter.

The Millennial or Y Generation is turning today�s workforce on its axis. This generation has different expectations, priorities and a very high understanding of technology. It�s a challenge that employers need to rise to in order to find success working with these individuals.

Who is a Generation Y worker?

  • 12-33 years of age
  • High knowledge base for technology
  • Want flexibility and work-life balance
  • Look for feedback and advancement
  • Prefer a collaborative work approach
  • Are politically progressive

Many of today�s companies remain rooted in the industrial age with structured work times and standard four wall offices; however, this is a generation open to change and due to their understanding of technology like �the cloud�, Bluetooth, social media, and various work applications, they expect change and corporations need an organizational model that engages this mentality.

There is evidence to support the differences in the generation; millennials are more productive with greater autonomy and flexibility in their work environment, work structure and hours. Traditional work practices may be viewed as outdated by Millennials, causing them a feeling of constraint. In a recent survey amongst millennials, �65% said they felt that rigid hierarchies and outdated management styles failed to get the most out of younger recruits and 46% thought that their managers did not always understand the way they use technology in their work� (

This highlights the need to think outside of the proverbial box to find ways to achieve this flexibility in the workplace. Although there are many benefits, the �flexible office� are can present challenges from an ergonomics perspective. In particular, Gen Y has been exposed to technology from a very young age and are known as the Nintendo generation. Compared to their Gen X and Boomer counterparts, they have grown up with less physical activity and as such, this may contribute to higher levels of obesity, potential hand and upper limb injuries as well as spinal discomfort.

This brings about challenges when managing organizational issues like workplace injuries, short and long term disability claims and accommodation issues. As Ergonomists, the importance of effecting change early when our workers first start experiencing discomfort is key in mitigating long-term symptoms; however, this may not be an option for many employers as the opportunity for early stage intervention passed when these workers were in high-school or post-secondary school.

By using ergonomic innovation and hazard reducing principles, a model can be created that will achieve both flexibility and a work set up that minimizes injury risk. It will be imperative that companies address an educational/training component to ensure that their workers have an awareness of ergonomics and how to set themselves up ergonomically, as well as provide the tools and equipment to do so. This new era will be built around accessories, headsets, monitor arms, device keyboards, etc., all with the intent purpose to allow our employees to be set up ergonomically whether in a traditional workplace setting or in a �flexible office� space.

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