Balancing Act: Face-off over face time back in modern offices

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It's a blue-sky day in South Florida, and Erik Bortzfield, a software marketing manager, would love to be ocean-side on a beach chair, connected to the Internet via laptop and air card. A year out of college, Mr. Bortzfield, 23, has discovered the rules of the workplace typically don't allow remote working, but he is convinced his generation will make it happen.

"When people my age start to own and manage companies, I think you'll start to see a noticeable change," he said.

The desire to work wherever, whenever, has heated up once again during the summer months as younger workers want to kick back a bit but find their baby-boomer bosses clinging to an old-fashioned preference for face time.

It's not that Mr. Bortzfield and his young counterparts across the country don't see value in coming to the office some of the time. But they believe reporting to an office from 9 to 5 every day in order to call and send emails to people in other places makes absolutely no sense. Many are planning for the day when they will make the office rules.

Millennials -- a group now roughly between ages 22 and 30 -- will be change-makers, said Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding. By 2025, Generation Y will make up roughly 75 percent of the world's workforce, a Business and Professional Women's Foundation study shows.

With such a large presence, expect them to put pressure on companies to shift how people work, Mr. Schawbel said: "Gen Y wants to rip apart work styles and create new relationships with the office that are more flexible."

Amanda DelPrete, a 24-year-old public relations account executive, said her generation wants to use the technology advantage. In college, she and her friends took one or more courses online or sat in their dorms watching the live stream. "Now, we come into the workplace and there's an insistence on face time, and we don't get it. We're more creative in our own space than in an office with no windows."

Leadership consultant Jane Goldner said boomer bosses trying to lead this new chaotic environment and still keep a handle on things will need to explain why face time is important.

"When you work virtually, you don't develop face-to-face interpersonal skills. That's a huge skill set missing in the workplace," she said.

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Cindy Krischer Goodman can be reached at balancegal@gmail.com.


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