HR · 18 March 2016

Want to really motivate your millennial staff? Move your office as far away from London as possible

Commuting to work in London is a tiresome affair
Commuting to work in London is a tiresome affair

Many employers struggle to understand their young workers, who it is claimed are needy, difficult and resistant to financial motivation. But if the owners of small young companies really want to do their staff a favour, they should pick a premises as far away from London as they possibly can.

With only six in 48 of London’s Zone 1 and 2 “villages” considered “affordable” places to rent, and the vast majority of boroughs in the city off limits to young buyers, living accommodation that consists of more than a cramped room in a shared house is a far-off dream for many workers in their 20s.

Despite flocking to vibrant northern cities like Manchester and Leeds, and relaxed coastal hotspots such as Exeter and Brighton for university, many millennials feel drawn to the capital when they’re looking for their first job because of the perception that it’s hard to find work anywhere else.

The negative aspects of living in the capital go beyond the cost of accommodation; there are plenty of other reasons that the capital is a rubbish place to be young. The massive increase of Uber drivers on the road recently must be to some extent a reflection of the sad truth that even if your young employees can afford to fork out close to £1,000 each month to live somewhere relatively central, there’s a good chance they’ll be unable to walk home after a night out. London has too many town centres and nightlife hotspots for any social occasion to be well placed for everyone’s journeys home.

A lot of noise has been made recently about the fact that nightclub entry fees were ejected from the basket of goods that the Office for National Statistics uses to calculate inflation. We’ve heard that such venues are unfashionable and unpopular with Generation Y because they’d prefer a cold-pressed juice and an early night. But what no one seems to have considered is that with most young people driven out of cities into far-flung corners of suburbia, nightclubs have become the preserve of forty-something bankers and the sort of bizarrely wealthy students who are willing to pay £1,000 a week to live within walking distance of the King’s Road. In other words, not worth the £30 cab fare back to the sticks.

If you’re not about to shed a tear for the fact that your young employees are facing impediments to getting drunk on a Wednesday, then consider the massive productivity benefits to be derived from basing your office somewhere where staff can get to work via a walk or casual cycle, free from the nutters in lycra that plague the capital’s cycle lanes. On top of that, workers can indulge their passions, be that life drawing or rock climbing, in the time they’re not spending on a 90 minute commute. This is going to provide better customer service and produce higher quality ideas than that from staff who are wasting ten hours a week stuck at East Croydon staring at a board listing cancelled Southern trains.

So why should it be up to small companies to up sticks and move out of the capital? Because micro firms are millennials’ natural home. Generation Y’s twin desires to feel part of something purposeful and be constantly reassured that they’re doing a good job are ideally suited to a small, growing company with a family feel.

If you have big ambitions for the future growth of your small company, then it’s worth considering whether you want to be tied to London in order to run it. The more employees on board, the harder it will be to get everyone to move elsewhere. And if millennial workers really are as self-obsessed as everyone says they are, you can guarantee that a decision made to help them out is one they’ll thank you for.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

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