In Brynne Herbert and Mrs Moneypenny’s latest Financial Times column, they discuss whether the sharing economy is a key part of the millennial mindset.
Millennial v Boomer: Young staff like to share, up to a point
22 April 2016
Originally featured in the FT.
The sharing economy is a key part of the millennial mindset. Young workers share themselves — their photos, creations, ideas and opinions — before anyone has asked.
Developments such as open source code and crowdsourced content are examples of this shift away from unique ownership. Many millennials own neither a car nor a house — instead they share them via Uber and Airbnb.
At a recent dinner with fellow millennials, the discussion moved to owning a home. “Are you thinking of buying soon?” asked one person. “No way. I don’t want to be tied down with ‘stuff,’” said another.
This conversation is consistent across millennials. Gone are the days when a freshly minted graduate dreamt of owning her first suburban home and shiny car. Regardless of whether this is because the state of the economy no longer allows for such aspirations, or because millennials have different ideals than their parents, it is a new reality that is also affecting the way we work.
Instead of moaning about their lack of possessions, millennials are taking advantage of the freedoms that sharing brings. It is time their employers did the same.
I recently visited a large company in Germany where employees can work from anywhere each day — on one of the open hot desks, in the cafeteria or on a bean bag chair in the breakout area. But some millennials are taking hot-desking much further. Instead of jumping from a desk by the window to a couch near the lift, they are hopping between desks that are continents apart. At my company, we just finished a “home swap” between two members of our team. One spent three months in San Francisco, the other in London. They swapped teams and living spaces — sharing their homes and lives with one another. The result? Both had fabulous experiences and returned with skills that will help them progress in their careers. Those benefits cost the company far less than had we had to pay for corporate apartments or hotel rooms. It is time for all of us to embrace what our kindergarten teachers taught us — sharing is caring.
Brynne Herbert, a millennial, is founder and chief executive of Move Guides, which helps employers relocate staff globally
For a generation that does not want to be tied down with “stuff” I am amazed at how much of it my staff — more than half of whom are under 30 — have accumulated. As we prepare to renovate the office, whole boxes of possessions are having to be taken home. Desk drawers contain everything from cuff links and spare pairs of tights to dog-eared copies of Harry Potter books and endless lengths of phone chargers and earphones.
I do not believe millennials dislike possessions, and I especially don’t believe that they would rather not buy a house. Almost everyone I employ under 30 is trying to — or has — bought property. This bears out the figures from the Regulated Mortgage Survey, the ONS data which shows that the percentage of mortgages taken out by 25-34 year-olds in the UK has been increasing steadily since 2010. Some 41.4 per cent of all mortgages taken out in 2014 were by people in that age range. That is higher even than just before the financial crisis hit — in 2007 millennials’ share of mortgages was 39.5 per cent.
The millennials I have at home believe in the sharing economy — specifically, sharing their father’s wardrobe. We own three interchangeable morning suits, and three sets of black tie, but white shirts and black brogues have to be borrowed from their father who, 60 this year, does not believe in sharing anything.
I do agree with Brynne about giving staff the opportunity to experience an overseas office. This week, one of the under-30s in my London team is in my Hong Kong office. Not only is it good for his career development, it also builds stronger relationships between my London employees and their far-flung colleagues.
As for the open desk policy, we shall certainly not be adopting that. I want to leave my files in one place and find that they are there when I return.
Plus I do not want to spend 10 minutes looking for somewhere to work every time I come back to the office.
Above all, I need to get around to attending more yoga classes before I even attempt to sit on a bean bag.
Mrs Moneypenny owns and runs an executive search company. At 54, she is a (young) baby boomer