December 22, 2014

Who Wants to Unplug? Millennials, That’s Who!

how to take a technology break

Millennials are the always-on, always-connected generation. So your typical Millennial employee who’s multitasking away, managing social media on one window of the desktop computer, IM-ing on a second and surfing the Net on a third while texting on a smartphone and listening to headphones – is as happy as could be, right?

Wrong. According to a study (PDF) by Cornerstone, the average Millennial employee is just as stressed out by technology as any Gen X, Baby Boomer or senior. In fact, even more so.

The poll of more than 1,000 employees reports that Millennials are more likely than any other generation to say they have suffered from work overload (58 percent), information overload (41 percent) and technology overload (38 percent).

What gives? Is the generation that grew up texting while crossing busy streets suddenly having an allergic reaction to technology?

Part of Millennials’ stress may be due to their low position on the office totem pole. After all, while technology is second nature to them, the workplace is still a bit new – and integrating technology with the expectations of bosses and colleagues can be challenging.

So how can you get your stressed out Millennial employees to take a tech break?

How to Take a Technology Break

Set Limits

This is the generation that sleeps with smartphones at its side. So if you email a Millennial at midnight, he or she will likely feel compelled to reply right then.

To preserve employees’ personal space (and sanity), set limits on non-emergency work-related communications, such as no work emails or texts after 10 p.m. You may need to vary this depending on what is reasonable for your business and the job duties of the people involved.

Consider a Back-to-Basics Day

Could your business do without internal email, IM or whatever communication is stressing employees out for one day or one afternoon a week?

Many large companies have no-email days to enable employees to get more focused work done. You can still communicate – just do it by picking up the phone or walking down the hall. Millennials aren’t the only ones who will appreciate it.

Get Together in Person

Millennials grew up collaborating on school projects and sports teams. While you might think this Skype generation is fine with virtual work teams and overseas collaborators in different time zones, in reality, 60 percent of Millennials say they prefer collaboration to take place in person.

Team bonding is important for young employees who are still finding their place in the workplace and bonding is better when it happens IRL (in real life). Provide opportunities for Millennial employees to collaborate in person, even if it means bringing remote workers into the office once a week or once a month.

Don’t Pile On

Millennial employees are often “assumed” to be tech-savvy, so they end up bearing the brunt of everyone’s casual requests for informal tech help. This can mean anything from taking charge of the business’s Facebook page to helping configure printer drivers, showing co-workers how to use their smartphones or creating a staff wiki. It can get to be too much.

Make sure your Millennials aren’t running themselves ragged trying to help the less knowledgeable. Instead of doing their jobs for them, have the Millennials show them how to do the tasks.

You know the saying, “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.”

Offer Time Off and Honor It

When workers take a day off, treat it as such and don’t contact them about work issues. Make sure someone else at the office is equipped to answer questions.

Your employees will come back rested and recharged – ready to multitask again, just not quite as much. 

Millennials Photo via Shutterstock

10 Comments ▼

Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a staff writer for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her on Google+ and visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

10 Reactions

  1. Even if technology is second nature to them, they’re bound to get tired of being connected to it for as long as and as consistently as they are.

    The technology-break suggestions are good ones, especially honoring any time taken off.

  2. Taking a break is a big deal. A real break where you not only leave the device behind/turned off, but mentally unloading. Get outside. Enjoy your hobbies. Then come back to work refreshed.

    • I think, as much as some people consume technology highly, given the chance to take a real break, they might find it difficult to do so, to totally disconnect.

  3. I’m a system admin for a “small” law firm with about 33 (and growing) employees. Being the only member of IT in an industry dominated by a typically older demographic is incredibly frustrating. Picture having to handle the company’s: social media, marketing, 30+ Websites, internal infrastructure, external infrastructure, and basically anything with electricity running through it because, you know, why not make the tech guy do all that? Then introduce 75% of the company who doesn’t really quite get what all this “tech stuff” is about; constantly querying you on how to turn a computer on, or make a Skype call, or burn a CD, etc..

    It gets incredibly frustrating as you blame yourself for not being able to complete anything important such as updating the servers, or maintaining the virtualization hosts, or setting up backups; and the list goes on. You get so burnt out because it seems like older demographics just don’t quite get how difficult and time consuming so many aspects of technology actually are. It’s as if everybody expects it to be a one button fix for everything, and they wonder why you are underperforming or not finishing things.

    You factor in what you mentioned above where you’re the “always on standby” employee and you start to feel like work is your life, and nothing else is allowed in. So yes, Millenials do need a bit of space from the “crazy jealous girlfriend” that work has become in this era. If we don’t get it, we’ll never get the chance to perform quite as well as we possibly could because we’ll all be overworked, burnt out, and mentally clocked out from the late night emails and texts coming in from our bosses.

    • Chris: that’s a lot of pressure for one person. Maybe you’ve already put forward what I’m about to suggest, but have you asked for support in terms of the firm employing an extra pair of hands?

  4. I don’t think that it is just about technology. It is about taking a break from everything and getting rid of all the noise. Millenial or not, I am pretty sure that almost everyone need some peace in their life and would appreciate some silence or disconnection from the online world.

    • You’re right. We all could do with a break. Period.

      I’d sooo love to do that. Get away, even if just for a weekend. No internet, no noise – just me and time (however short) and nature.

  5. When are Millennnials born? How about taking short mini-breaks now and then?

    • Good question! I had no idea when ’til I did a quick search on Google. Millennials (also known as Generation Y) were born b/w 1982 and 2004.

      It starts from 1982 because it was “around the time 1982-born children were entering preschool and the media were first identifying their prospective link to the millennial year 2000″, according to William Strauss and Neil Howe. They’re also the ones that came up with the term.

  6. Terrific article. I see this in my work with companies all the time. The Millennials are running ragged because Boomers (like me) push tech tasks onto the Millennials. It’s a hard balance, but Booms have to step up to using tech more efficiently, and companies need to provide that training. BTW, research shows that Boomers learn technology more slowly. Natch. But once we get it, we use it efficiently.

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