Over the past few weeks, all over the US, “working from home” has gone from a euphemism for “I have other things to do and will try and get some work done”, to an imperative for office workers. As a result, generational work cultures are being revealed for all to see.

As millennials take over, and Gen Z enters the workforce, they are pushing to change the 9 to 5, sit at a desk and look busy corporate office culture. Quarantine could be their lucky break.  The definition of a “job” has changed dramatically over the past ten years. Workers no longer go to work for a company with the expectation of longevity beyond two to three years.  The packages offered echo that sentiment, salaries are based on the immediate value that an individual can deliver to the business. Boomer benefits like training, retirement fund matching, and health insurance are non-existent or come with a steep co-pay. The workforce of today is less employee and more “resource.”

The balance of power is shifting, these younger generations of workers outnumber their older Boomer, and Gen X counterparts and approach work very differently. Many have multiple jobs, “gigs,” and a considerable number of them work remotely with little loyalty to any particular company. These workers are interested in lifestyle and independence. They are smart and productive,  adept at working with the technology that supports remote work, and don’t value the traditional office workday or style.  In some ways, forced quarantine could be ideal for accelerating the disruption and modernization of work.

Younger workers and leaders have grown up with the ability to work remotely and leverage technology to get their jobs done from anywhere at any time. And while the older generations in leadership positions have accepted this new working style in principle and written corporate policies, most haven’t fully embraced it.  There is still a very entrenched unspoken rule, even some of the most progressive corporate cultures that work can only “REALLY” get done form an office, and proof of work relies on someone seeing you in person. With forced working from home in place, companies have no choice but to adjust the standards to meet the new reality.

It is hard to believe that when the restrictions are lifted, the historic “day at the office” will revert to eight hours at a desk in a central location.

The genie is out of the bottle that work really can be done from anywhere.