In a very hip creative office space (can’t get any more hip than exposed brick walls and an open-air staircase) across from the very hip Berlin Bistro/Fingerprints Record Store building, two Millennials (I’d call them hip too but there wasn’t enough time to administer the test, which involves familiarity with local speakeasies and knowledge of which cheap, forgotten brand of beer is currently in right now) run their own marketing agency called Commune Communications.


And with their success, they’re kind of living the Millennial Dream.


The guys in question – James Whale, 37, native New Zealander, and Ryan La Rosa, 34 year old Long Beach local – left careers at big agencies in New York City to strike out on their own in a way that emulates the most sought after ideal of Millennials: work-life balance.


My last article cited research that showed most Millennials feel indifferent towards their jobs but desire to be passionate and have value in the workplace. They also crave flexibility and opportunities to advance.


I also promised to follow up with local employers on whether or not Millennials fit into the stereotype that they are lazy and entitled at work, or if we’re all just misunderstood.


La Rosa and Whale set the stage for this discussion so well it’s almost like I invented them. (But I swear, I didn’t. Google them.)


As they tell it, at the mega-ad agencies of New York, work-life balance was basically nonexistent. “From the outside in, some of these bigger agencies look pretty sexy and amazing,” Whale said. “And you get to work on these big accounts like Adidas and Coca Cola. But the truth of it is there are so many people willing to do your job that nights, weekends are fair game,” he recounted.


“The way that advertising agencies have gone is that you populate them with floors and floors of young people who are willing to do that, because that’s how you pay your dues,” La Rosa said. “We just wanted to not do that at all costs.”


For these two, work-life balance not only allows for leisure – it is also a means producing better work. “Frankly, you can’t solve creative problems sitting in front of your computer 12 hours a day,” La Rosa said. “The times that we have solved those problems hiking in Yosemite or Joshua Tree . . . far outnumber the times we have solved those problems sitting and staring at each other in an office.”


At Commune, working remotely is totally acceptable, and taking time off is encouraged. Even simple breaks to go out for coffee help keep creativity flowing, La Rosa said.


Lest I anger the masses by only interviewing Millennials, I also talked to Long Beach’s own Fortune 500 company, Molina Healthcare. Millennials make up 42% of its massive 20,000-person workforce, according to Edward Topps, manager of human resources and talent acquisition at the firm.


Talking to Topps, it seems the research presented in my last column is pretty in line with Molina’s understanding of Millennials.


To refresh the memories of my legions of adoring fans (read: Grandma), a poll by Deloitte found that more than half of Millennials feel their leadership skills are not being developed, an issue cited by nearly three-quarters who plan to leave their jobs in a couple of years.

Topps said Molina’s highest turnover rate is among Millennials, who tend to want to seek other opportunities to broaden their horizons.


“They want to feel like their work is a part of their company’s mission and purpose – that it actually provides value,” Topps said of Millennials. He added, “They want to make sure they are having that direct impact.”


To that end, Molina Healthcare provides guidance on career advancement and is increasingly pushing mentorship opportunities.


A topic of conversation within Molina’s HR department is how to increase flexible work opportunities. “We have been looking at 9/80 [work schedule] approaches, maybe one to two days working remote,” Topps said.


Topps dismissed the stereotype that Millennials are lazy. If Millennials on his team have enough free time to be on their phones, he said, “I’m probably not challenging them enough.”


But both Commune Communications and Molina Healthcare pointed out a trend of Millennials expecting to be assigned work above their experience level.


“You find with a lot of Millennials, because they are so ambitious [when] they are coming right out of college . . . they want to jump right in to a manager or director role with no years of experience,” Topps said. “But we want to make sure we still motivate them and train them the appropriate way to let them have realistic expectations.”


La Rosa and Whale tend to hire recent college graduates and have seen similar behavior. “Sometimes we have to pump the brakes and go, ‘Well, you’re actually not ready to create a whole advertising campaign,’” La Rosa said.


So what’s my verdict on Millennials in the workplace? As both Topps and the Commune guys noted – laziness and entitlement are qualities that could apply to any age group. Sure, maybe we’re a little full of ourselves, but that wind will get knocked out of our sails pretty fast.


Cut us some slack and let us take a coffee break, for God’s sake.