Are Gen Y Telecommuting Natives As Well?

Last Updated Jun 6, 2011 7:12 AM EDT

If you're a blacksmith and wield a massive hammer all day, you'll develop huge muscles. If you're a teenager who spends every waking hour texting, it's no surprise that you'll have lightning fast thumbs, and if you're a salesperson on the road all week, you'll probably learn to pack a pretty impressive carry-on.

Our environments clearly shape us, as do the tasks we practice the most. Just look at Gen Y, many of whom have been online since they were in diapers and have therefore been dubbed "digital natives." Constant exposure to tech has made Gen Y more confident and intuitive with technology than older generations, goes the usual argument.

But when Entry-Level Rebel spoke with Sara Sutton Fell, the CEO of telecommuting and flexible jobs board FlexJobs.com, she made a slightly different argument about how the youngest generation in the workforce has been shaped by their lifelong immersion in technology. Physical spaces are pretty meaningless to them, making them perfectly suited to remote work. She explains:
We don't specifically reach out to the entry-level market, primarily because there are so many fantastic entry-level job sites out there, but we certainly do have an entry-level section, and I think the recent graduates from the last few years have really been putting a priority on flexibility and have a much higher comfort level for freelance work than prior generations. Not just comfort level but it really seems to mesh much better with their work habits actually.
Their work culture is very different. Whether it's right or wrong is a whole different debate, but the fact is they're the up-and-coming generation and mobility and technology are not going anywhere for them. It's part of their life and culture.

They just don't see a building as a defining structure of where you do things. To give you an example, the way you study in college. I have two much younger siblings so I've been in awe of this. I used to have to go to the library to study, write a paper and research -- to go and do my work. Yes, you could check books out, but it was all a very physical, tangible thing and this is where you did it. For the generations now, they don't need to be in the library. They can be anywhere, so the boundaries that older generations grew up with, thinking this is where you have to do something, isn't present at all in this generation. So the demands for them to be in a building and sitting at a desk seem kind of ridiculous.
Sutton Fell's argument is an interesting twist on a familiar point. Of course, young people are more comfortable with technology that makes distance and location insignificant, but the flip side of this is that they're also less respectful of physical boundaries and constraints as well, They're not only trained by a lifetime of tech to be digital natives, they're also primed for telecommuting.

"Gen Y's inherent demand for flexibility," will be one of the trends that drives greater acceptance and uptake of telecommuting, concludes Sutton Fell. Do you find her take on Gen Y's preference for location independence convincing and do you think this characteristic of Gen Y will make a real impact on the way we work?

Read More on BNET: (Image courtesy of Flickr user blakespot, CC 2.0)
  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.

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