Securing the Future of Work — and Business

Tim Minahan
5 min readMay 25, 2021


Today’s youngest workers are primed to deliver significant economic gains. But they’ll need some help to do it

They are the first generation to grow up in an entirely digital world. And in 2035, the success or failure of business — and the global economy — will be in the hands of the Born Digital. Comprised of Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) and Generation Z (born after 1997) workers, the Born Digital are the engines of the knowledge economy and tomorrow’s business leaders. And they’re poised to deliver some heady gains.

According to The Born Digital Effect, today’s youngest workers can drive an extra $1.9 trillion in corporate profits. But they’ll need an assist to pull it off.

Coming of Age in an Unreal Time

The pandemic has forever changed the way we all work. But it has had a particularly profound impact on the Born Digital. Many began their careers during the crisis, and remote and technology-driven work is all they have ever known. They view work differently than previous generations, and to shore up their future business success, companies must understand their values, career aspirations and working styles and provide them with the support they need to adapt to work in a post-pandemic world.

A Fundamental Disconnect

As revealed by The Born Digital Effect, business leaders are largely disconnected from what the Born Digital — who account for most of the global workforce — want from work. And if they want to unlock their full potential and the value they can deliver, they need to plug in.

To prepare them for the future, leaders need to get a grip on the expectations and motivations of the Born Digital and adapt their workplace and work practices to cultivate them. Doing so will require a focus on three things:

1) Where they want to work — Business leaders significantly overestimate the appeal of the office to the Born Digital. Of those polled as part of The Born Digital Effect, 58 percent believe younger workers will want to spend most or all of their time there post-pandemic. But 90 percent of Born Digital employees surveyed said they have no desire to return to full-time office work, preferring a hybrid model instead.

· Over half (51 percent) want to remain working from home most or all of the time.

· 18 percent would like hybrid working with more time in the office

· 21 percent would like hybrid working with time evenly split between home and the office

· Only 10 percent would like to be in the office full time

To prepare them for success in the distributed environments that will drive the future of work, companies need to give employees the freedom to choose where they work best based on what they need to accomplish on a given day. Offices are ideal for team collaboration, connection and innovation, while working from is optimal for individual activities that require focus. The Born Digital want — and need — the flexibility to work from both.

2) When they want to Work — They also want choice in when they work. Although a five-day week is still a popular working pattern, the Born Digital believe they should be given the opportunity to work a four-day week if they choose (17 percent). They also expect to be able to decide when to begin and end their working day (27 percent), and a few even want to work unstructured or output-based hours (7 percent).

3) How they want to Work Prior to the pandemic, gig and freelance work were fast emerging as models for the future — and popular among the Born Digital. But times have changed. Facing unprecedented uncertainty, the vast majority of the Born Digital (72 percent) want permanent employment.

When it comes to the technology they use to get work done, the perception among 85 percent of business leaders is that access to cutting-edge tools is what the Born Digital crave more than anything else. The reality is, they just want technology that enables and empowers them to work in a simple, secure and reliable manner, anywhere, anytime and adapts to the way they work rather than forcing them to learn new ways of doing things.

And when asked to identify the top five things they want from work, getting access to it didn’t make the list. What did?

· Job satisfaction (88 percent)

· Career stability and security (87 percent)

· A good work-life balance (87 percent)

· Compensation that recognizes and rewards performance (85 percent)

· A good relationship with their manager (84 percent)

This is poorly understood by leaders, who think that behind access to technology, the Born Digital value opportunities for training (84 percent) and meaningful work that has impact (83 percent). It’s a deep divide. And it needs to be closed.

The Future is in Their Hands

Organizations need to drop their assumptions about what they think the Born Digital wants and invest in the things they really need to thrive. And there are clear commercial benefits to doing so.

To quantify these benefits, The Born Digital Effect looked at the impact of Born Digital employees on companies’ profitability, examining the relationship between the size of a country’s Born Digital population and the profitability of that country’s businesses.

And it found that businesses in countries with above-average Born Digital populations can see an increase in corporate profits equivalent to more than the entire market capitalization of the FTSE 100.

Countries in the study with relatively well-developed education systems or younger populations compared to their peers — such as the US, China, the UAE, Mexico, the UK and the Netherlands — are benefiting most from the Born Digital dividend as their above-average Born Digital populations are helping to ensure their businesses enjoy greater profitability, now and in the future.

Conversely, countries with relatively older populations such as France, Germany and Japan or lower levels of higher education among the younger population such as India, have the potential to reap greater rewards if they invest in higher education and digital infrastructure, actively recruit younger workers, and adapt their workplaces and working practices to suit them.

The future of work boils down to three things: flexibility, choice and autonomy. Companies that re-architect their work models and employee experience with these things as the foundation can foster a more engaged and productive workforce and high-growth, profitable business.



Tim Minahan

Tim Minahan is the executive vice president, business strategy and chief marketing officer at Citrix, a leading provider of digital workspace solutions.