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Why more and more millennials are choosing non-traditional workplaces.


February 5, 2018

Ten months into a corporate job in the communications department of a global commercial real estate firm, my energy and creativity was dwindling.

I had entered the role believing anything was possible, excited to work alongside passionate seniors who would revel in the creative process; together delivering exceptional campaigns and real outcomes.

At University I was warned from the offset not to expect employment upon graduating. I took unpaid internships while studying full time, worked part-time to pay bills – all the while endlessly networking and keeping abreast of the media, new technologies, and outstanding PR campaigns. My peers blogged, grew their social media accounts and participated in global discourse.

I’ve grown up surrounded by the constant hum of technology; a sea of screens and 247 communication channels that I would soon be managing both proactively and reactively.

There has always been a sense of urgency and a need to consider the noise of this multitude of channels and breakthrough to be heard in innovative, wholehearted ways or get pushed to the sidelines.

The workstyle of this office solidified to me the phrase ‘you’ll just be a cog in the wheel of the corporation’. Our brainstorming sessions lacked energy and ideas were shut down and responded with ‘there’s no way the C-Suite would approve this.’

We were a creative team functioning in what I now believe to be a fear-based workplace. We were all so liable – so close to the source that it was impossible to inject fresh, outlandish ideas that may just bring about positive change. And how could we? We were bound to our desks from 8.30-5.30 day in, day out.

Our team director explained that as the brokers were essentially our clients, we needed to be ‘seen’ to be delivering real value to the business. This meant sitting at our desks until 5.30pm to show we were present and participating. It was a charade of keeping up appearances. How was this real value?

I was beginning to feel like an imposter. I began to try and just fit in, survive the workday and get home mentally unscathed. I sat neatly in the barriers that my workplace had installed around me; delivering results as tidily as I could – always trying to keep the peace.

Every task felt stagnated by a series of hurdles of approval from senior management. I was losing the flair. I felt numb and guilty for it. How could everyone else work in this way and not feel guilty?

One afternoon sitting at my desk on the 27th level of the highrise with no natural air, hearing the drum of the aircon amid a fluorescent-light fog, I had an overwhelming sense of entrapment.

I knew how lucky I was to be working for a global company and felt ashamed for being so unable to simply accept the culture and rise to the challenge. I was impressed with my director who had worked years to get where he was. Though I wholeheartedly did not want to be him. Why did I not want this?

Meanwhile, my peers in PR agencies were suffering from burnout managing a multitude of platforms, the ever-increasing amount of crisis communications and the borderline spam they were pitching to journalists or posting online. Exhausted and depleted from their workstyles, they left the industry three years in.

I began to consider a freelance workstyle where I could work in a way that would inspire me. To sit outside in the fresh air one day and on the next, work in a collaborative working space meeting new personalities from a range of industries; continuing to grow.

I was now in my final month at the office. Sitting nearby the Managing Director, I overheard a conversation between him and the Careers Director about the selection of millennial applicants for my advertised role.

“Why would we hire another millennial who is going to stay in the workplace for a year max. and then leave?”

And this got me thinking –  he is absolutely right.

As millennials, we have been sheltered to believe that anything is possible and that we can make a difference.

We exist in overdrive and cannot commit to a career in one industry. We produce exceptional work and then we move onto the next exciting project constantly energised by the melange.

All the while we exist surrounded by information overload and require momentary space in our days to breathe. We attend yoga or spin classes at 2 pm to break up the day, we meditate and yearn for nature in what can feel like an artificial world.

We’re drinking less alcohol and more green juices to energise ourselves and find clarity in the chaos.

We live in small studios and cannot imagine buying a house for decades. We’re frustrated when there are no bike paths to work. We’re not signing up to superannuation and instead owning less and staying in control of our finances.

We’re conscious of our environmental footprint, crave sustainability and only work for companies that consider their operational environments. As it seems, quite frankly, that without living this way our future is looking bleak.

We’re part of a global network connecting with others across borders to create yet we’re inherently introverted and we need time alone.

We have grit and determination but only when it counts. Because if we don’t function in this way – we will burn out.

We won’t accept a stifled, traditional workstyle and as a result, we deliver exceptional output in the most creative and efficient way you could imagine.

And finally, I don’t think we’re alone in these thoughts. It’s just that organisations now face an uncompromising and difficult generation, just self-entitled enough to speak up about how we best work.

Specialising in Property PR and not-for-profits, Lexie generates compelling content in the form of editorial articles, thought leadership pieces and blog posts that are readily taken up by the media. In 2013 she obtained a Bachelor of Communication (public relations) degree with Distinction from RMIT University, Melbourne, and has since worked abroad in London, Amsterdam and New Zealand.

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