Can Millennials Be Productive When the Power Goes Out?

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Oct 21, 2015

One of the benefits of writing a blog that is focused on bringing interesting research analysis to the HR community is that people (vendors, academics, researchers, associations) send me all kinds of research reports.

I receive cool data analyses every day. And, I learn a lot reading through them.

Here’s a funky little survey analysis that won’t surprise anyone, but it brings up a good point.

The research goal of Generational Trends in Employee Desktop Expectations and Behaviors, sponsored by AppSense, was “to capture hard data on experiences and attitudes towards desktop experience among business users.”

The methodology included a series of online surveys that were given to independent sources of business professionals, all of whom worked at companies with more than 500 employees (1,000 employees in the U.S.) and lived in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, The Netherlands or Australia. All in, a total of 258 full-time business professionals who use a desktop computer for than 10 percent of their work participated in the survey.

Another big generational difference

If we needed to see more data that would drive a wedge between the Millennials and the Baby Boomers, this would qualify — except that the data isn’t surprising.

Millennials grew up with technology in their hands, pockets, and backpacks. Boomers grew up with almost no technology, and when it did appear, it wasn’t personal, mobile, or transportable.generational-trends-2-october-2015

So, while we all get distracted when our desktops are slow to load, how we spend our time while waiting is different. Evidently, Millennials only know how to be productive on a computer.generational-trends-october-2015

On the face of it, it looks like Boomers try to be more work productive while waiting for their slow desktops to catch up with them, and Millennials tend to be more personal productive. What we don’t know is how much time these activities take – seconds, minutes, or more.

Being productive when the power goes out

As I said, this is a funky little survey analysis. You certainly wouldn’t create any policy changes based on these findings. But, you might ask questions about how much time is actually spent waiting for slow computers at your organization.

If it’s minutes a week versus hours a week, you’re probably fine. If the available time due to slow computers is hours a week, the investment in alleviating the down time might be well-spent.

But the more interesting question this brings up for me is whether or not our workforce, now dominated by digital natives, can be productive when the lights go out. Are we’re teaching them how to be productive off the digital reservation?

For sure, the Boomers can go Old School and use paper, spreadsheets, telephones, and other relics of bygone business eras to get work done if the systems go down. Is it possible that our younger colleagues don’t know non-digital ways of being productive? Is this funky survey and analysis an inadvertent call to ensure that productivity isn’t bound by turning on a computer and being connected to the Internet?

Can your workforce continue to serve your customers and be productive if the systems go down for an hour? For a day? For several days?

I’m just sayin’.

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at