How millennials and the pandemic are driving a transformation of professional work culture.
If you ask a Baby Boomer what it means to be a “professional” in the United States, you might get answers like: wearing business formal attire, having salaried employment, daily commutes to the office, clocking at least 40 hours per week, respecting a hierarchical work structure, or contributing to a 401k. Millennials, on the other hand, will likely throw out very different values associated with professionalism: honoring work-life balance, feeling rewarded by their work, having a flexible schedule, feeling respected by co-workers, or being their authentic selves at work.
Many Americans still hold views of professionalism rooted in the patriarchal, sexist, and racially exclusionary tropes of 1950s America. As our nation works toward becoming a more equal and just society, it’s time we say goodbye to Leave It to Beaver, and embrace the future of professionalism—and millennials are leading the way.
Many people still picture millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996) as lazy teenagers glued to their cellphones, but did you know that the youngest millennials are old enough to be graduating with advanced degrees, and the oldest millennials are pushing 40?! Millennials are actively redefining what it means to be a professional in America, and COVID-19 has substantially helped accelerate this evolution. Times are changing, and our definition of professionalism is at the forefront of that transformation. This blog post will examine the two largest paradigm shifts that working professionals can expect to see in post-pandemic America.
Substance Over Suits
Business formal attire has long served as a sign of class and wealth in the United States. Donning an expensive suit was your golden ticket into elite circles. Today, however, we have billionaire tech-bros giving network TV interviews in sweatshirts and flip flops, and corporate CEOs showing up on zoom calls in t-shirts and ball caps. Success ≠ suits.
This shift toward business casual – or in some cases, couch potato casual – is interesting for two reasons. First, it removes a barrier of entry for many young professionals. Fancy clothing is expensive, intimidating, and inherently classist. Allowing people to wear business casual attire means they can usually rely on clothing they already own. Secondly, it shifts the focus from aesthetics to substance. Being a professional has nothing to do with the clothes you wear, but rather, the skills and perspective you bring as an individual that ultimately strengthens a company’s mission. Casual attire and freedom of expression helps promote personal authenticity in the workplace.
Telecommuting is Here to Stay
Many working professionals agree that one silver lining of the global pandemic has been an increase in work-life balance. Pre-pandemic, the average American spent almost 1 hour commuting to and from work each day. According to an IMB Study in 2020:
The forced shift to operating as a largely remote workforce has led to nearly 40 percent of respondents indicating they feel strongly that their employer should provide employee opt-in remote work options when returning to normal operations. And remote work appears to be growing on people, as more than 75 percent indicate they would like to continue to work remotely at least occasionally, while more than half – 54 percent – would like this to be their primary way of working. (IBM)
While working from home can be challenging, especially for people with children or boisterous pets, the flexibility of remote work has made its mark on the American workforce. Millennials (who are inherently more comfortable with technology) will continue advocating for more remote-work flexibility…even in a post-pandemic world. Imagine a future where remote-work days are negotiated in job packages! Imagine a future where corporate jobs are 100% virtual!
At PSM Marketing, we don’t need to imagine. PSM has been a virtual marketing agency since our foundation in 1997. In fact, our entire team has been working-remotely for over 20 years! The greatest benefit to business owners is the overhead savings. No office space, no utility payments, no rental insurance, no office supplies, no printer that’s always jamming. Our team members benefit from an incredibly flexible work schedule and zero commute time.
Are You Ready for the Changing Tides of Professionalism?
If you’re still unsure about what the future of professionalism in America looks like, here are three key takeaways. 1) Our society is beginning to reprioritize our values in a meaningful way that emphasizes authenticity. 2) The pandemic has accelerated social changes that are here to stay. 3) Millennials will continue advocating for work-life balance, and businesses must adapt to stay competitive. If you have questions on how to prepare your business or organization for future success, please contact PSM Marketing!