David Friedman, president of RSI, an employee benefits firm in Mount Laurel, N.J., said; “Most recent college grads — part of the so-called Generation Y — aren’t all that focused on the benefits packages their employers are offering. They want to get a job and they want to make money. They don’t know anything about it and they don’t really care.”

“But when those Gen Yers do get situated, Friedman said, and reach their late 20s and 30s, what they will want out of their workplace and their employee benefits will be different than the so-called Generation X that came before them — and drastically different than the baby boomers before them.”

Friedman and others in the employee benefits field agree that, more than ever, families are trying to juggle jobs and home life. And while generations past have just lived with workplace rigidity, that is changing. “When you look at the generation coming up now, I think the thing that generation will value more than anything is flexibility,” Friedman said. “People want to have a more balanced life.”

Friedman said a flexible workplace may be one that allows its workers to work flex-time hours, for example 7 to 3 instead of 9 to 5, or it could offer day care so that employees can juggle work and home more easily.

Friedman said the change in expectations is because roles — for instance, gender roles — have become less rigid and there are fewer expectations for work. Plus, many workers in American society are much wealthier than they used to be and have more lifestyle options available.

“It’s no longer ‘You’re born this way, and here is what your expected role is,” Friedman said. “Today, they’re so many more choices available to everyone.”

A new study by Mercer Human Resource Consulting shows that, in fact, Gen Yers are looking for different benefits from the workplace and more flexibility. Called the 2002 People at Work Survey, that study found that employees ages 18-24 (those falling in the Gen Y category) are a lot different than even Gen X employees. It found that Gen Y employees are more likely to say their motivation at work is influenced by a flexible workplace and opportunities for promotion, not salary. The study found that 83 percent of those in the 18-24 age group were motivated by flexibility, while only 73 percent cited salary as important. Those in the older age groups were less likely to want flexibility, yet more likely to want higher wages.

“Flexible working arrangements are highly prized by Gen Y workers,” said Debra Besch, a senior consultant in Mercer’s Philadelphia office.