Is Work-Life Balance Dead? Depends on Which Generation You Ask.
Is striking a balance between work and life a priority for you? You are not alone. 45 percent of employees said they don’t have enough time for personal activities according to results from a Workplace Trends Survey. Health professionals are reporting that people are working themselves to death. In direct contradiction is a multitude of research stating work-life balance is dead and nothing more than a myth.
So who should we believe?
It appears we are all in the right church but the wrong pew. Your seat assignment (and Kool-Aid of choice) is determined by your generation.
This generation has been ready to “86” the entire conversation of work-life balance the moment Millennials got duped with its creation. This “me” generation spent their entire careers concentrating solely on building just that…their careers. Remember why you wore that key around your neck, Gen X? It wasn’t because Mommy was striking a healthy balance between the office and home. She was burning the midnight oil to be considered only half as equal as her male counterpart. Think about what influenced Boomers – Suburbia, Vietnam, Human Rights Movements, Wade v Roe, etc. Boomers have been incredible influencers which they obtained through allowing their careers to become their life.
If you want to keep your Boomers engaged, allow them to work as many hours as they want, set up mentorship programs and let them complain about work-life balance.
This generation is the poster-child of work-life balance. Gen X is the skeptical, middle child with abandonment issues (thank you, Boomers). Gen X wants nothing more than to be home by six for dinner, evaluate every study abroad program Sally just had to enroll in, and above all, continue to enable, what they term, “little monsters” at work— Millennials. Xers grew up fending for themselves and knew early on that if they wanted anything in life, they had to go out and get it on their own. Influencers were The Brady Bunch, (Oh no! Mom and Dad in the same bed together?) the energy crisis and the divorce rate tripling for the first time. Xers know how risky putting all their eggs in the career basket can be and ensure that they do not repeat the same mistakes their parents did.
Retain Xers through Flex scheduling, telecommuting, maternal/paternal leave and give them adequate time off.
As a Millennial, I come with many labels such as entitled, lack soft skills, naïve, love Bernie Sanders, and enlarged thumbs, which I do see in many of my peers. However, one box I refuse to get thrown is work-life balance.
We HATE work-life balance! Here’s a test to prove my point – as a Boomer or Xer, think about how often you talk about work to your family. Do you go home every day telling your spouse about a co-worker, project or upcoming promotion? Do you ask a family member for advice on how to handle minor issues at the office? The majority of Xers answer “never.” In contrast, Millennials see no difference between work and life and regularly discuss all aspect of their work with their families. All efforts in both are interwoven in a greater purpose, mission or passion. Ever wonder why we text and email you at all hours of the night? Frustrated with us always asking “why?” Do you think obtaining all those advanced degrees was solely due to the Recession? For many of us, work-life balance is dead because there is no need to strike a balance. It is all one big mission.
Keep us engaged through allowing us to work after hours emailing and researching from home. Show us how we can make an impact and then lead the initiative.
Creating successful engagement initiatives in our organizations is no easy feat. Because we have diverse workforces, we cannot take a canned approach to work-life balance or any other program. Let your teams waive their generational flags with honor while understanding their differences.
Photo Credit: Francesco Corallo via Compfight cc