GTFO of the Office, If That’s What You’d Like

The digital war over whether millenials are “Just the worst!”, or not has produced a lot of memes from a technocapable generation defending its… making excuses for its (our) high unemployment rate, degree of screwed-ness, blatant lack of political representation because of government corruption and low participation, and social fragmentation. A common theme on one side of these memes is ‘participation trophy’ entitlement. A common theme on my side of these memes is millenials’ reluctance to accept the traditional, top-down office structure.

Our reticence to be crammed into offices in a monotonous cycle, that at best ends up with a personal office and higher wage is unintentional propaganda for the labor movement. millenials don’t want bosses who breathe down their neck and reprimand tardiness. Neither does anyone, but the over-educated millenials are the first American generation in a long time that’s in a position (in this case a position of privilege, in the past it has been one of desperation) to feel like its dissatisfaction requires redress. This redress is coming from corporations attracting millenial talent and the efforts of entrepreneurial millenials designing their own office environment.

Surveyed millenials (1, 2, 3) desire flexibility in where, when, and how they perform their jobs and the American labor market for skilled-workers has responded.

In 2014 the shoe company Zappos launced an innovative system of governance known as Holacracy. The system removes the manager-employee relationship from the office and puts people at the helm of their job title’s responsibilities, removing bureaucratic oversight and respecting the employee’s ability to perform their job. The system is intended to create an organizational focus on teamwork and success, rather than simply respecting bureaucratic rules. Holacratic team members choose their workflow based on what needs to be done that day, week, month, or year and if a team member is under-performing they can be sanctioned, reassigned, or fired through a decision-making mechanism laid out in the Holacratic Constitution. The constitution is a rigorously, comprehensive document designed to allow an organization to function without a traditional hierarchy. The new organizational structure didn’t magically make Zappos a more profitable company, but it does revolutionize the model by which a corporation makes and executes their decisions.

Another new model for collaboration between employees can entirely or partially get rid of the need for an office. Remote work has become more popular with the rise of widespread internet access and affordable communications technologies that allow for video meetings and document collaboration. Some entrepreneurs have even eschewed the office to work for themselves in countries with lower costs of living. Remote work suits the new digital nomad class well. They’ve popped up all over the world. Well-educated millenials with a passion for travel, few attachments keeping them in their country of origin, and marketable skills generally focused around the internet. These digital nomads are software developers, bloggers, social media marketers, teachers, and I’m sure in some cases, reliant on trust funds. The lifestyle of remote work and cheap international living is undeniably attractive to people who enjoy being outside of their comfort zones and don’t have to worry about regularly being around children or family. Some digital nomads literally make their income by catering to other digital nomads. writing for or providing housing for digital nomads. The website Become Nomad is not alone in its market and new ventures in digital nomad cohabitation and training seem to pop up everyday on the several forums and Facebook groups targeting this lifestlye.

The baby boomers and gen-Xers engaged in the verbal war being waged against millenials should take a moment to consider which side they want to be on. The side that’s fighting against capitalists and their belief that exploitation is their right through some unwritten law of nature. Or the side who is arguing that their labor is worth more than the capitalists’ bottom dollar, that their decision-making abilities aren’t just there for the capitalist to take credit for and profit from, and their lives can be spent in much more fulfilling environments than a cubicle or open-floor-plan office. It’s understandable for the older generations to find it difficult to come to terms with the capacity for modern communications technology to improve their lives as laborers but I think they’ve had a long time to catch on. They should be ready to link arms in a revolution that takes us all out of the office and into our own paradise; whether that be beach, mountain, cave, or rainforest.

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