What You Can Learn From Millennial Employees about Work Life Balance

millennials work life balance

Is it Time to Adopt the Millennials Work Life Balance Approach?

We have found that of all the generations mixed in the employment pool for 2017, the Millennials are the recipients of the most negative comments from their co-workers. Perceptions and comments I have heard are: “They are lazy. They only care about themselves. They want everything immediately and don’t want to pay their dues. They’re always on their devices. They want to work remotely. They want to leave work early for family functions.” So why is everyone complaining? Don’t most of us want many of these things as it relates to work vs. personal life? Why is there such a backlash against Millennials who want these things now? Are the older generations upset that they weren’t bold enough to ask for these things when they were new to the workforce?

The hourly mentality of the 40-plus-hour workweek is very difficult for this younger group of workers to wrap their heads around. Why do they need to put in a set number of hours at work for the sake of putting in hours at work? Shouldn’t the goal be for productivity and getting the job done and focus on accomplishments and not effort? Maybe the Millennials are on to something!

If you’re a business owner, take a look at the world through the eyes of your employees. They often see you as the owner coming and going as you please (or so it appears) and they would like to have some or all of the same freedoms. In fact, we have found that not only are Millennials looking for these same freedoms today, but nearly the entire workforce is looking for this supposed work/life balance.

I think this work/life balance issue can use a little reframing. I have a lot of trouble with the “slash” part of the work/life balance. You know, the “/” which divides the “work” part from the “life” part. Perhaps what the Millennials have figured out is that the two things really can‘t be divided with a slash. Maybe they‘ve discovered what I‘ve know since my childhood. Growing up with a business owner meant that the lines between work and personal life were always a bit blurred for me to the point where they almost became one in the same. Phone calls were interspersed between relatives, friends and co-workers. Clients were also good friends who came to our house for dinner. I‘d stop by the office to use one of the computers to do some schoolwork.

Think about it from a business owner standpoint. There‘s no “switch” at the end of the “work” day where owners just turn off their brains and stop thinking about work. You can‘t stop thinking about a proposal for a new customer, a tough discussion you need to have with a long-term employee, or the current cash crunch. There‘s also no “switch” during the day where owners turn off their brains and stop thinking about their personal life. Thoughts of their spouse, kids, in-laws, friends, etc. pop into their heads. They get phone calls, emails, texts and Facebook messages throughout the day from these folks. Guess what, that “switch” doesn‘t really exist for the employees either!

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So instead of trying to continue to divide these two things, we should instead embrace and celebrate how they are intertwined. What would your personal life be like if you didn‘t have work? You might enjoy your spouse and kids, but if you were with them all the time you might not enjoy each other so much!

Let‘s stop feeling guilty about texting our spouse or kids during the day; just don‘t abuse it and spend hours trolling Facebook or Twitter. And let‘s not give our significant others grief when they‘re checking email after dinner … just don‘t do it during dinner!

Time to Adopt Millennials Work Life Balance Approach?

Let‘s change the conversation to celebrate how life and work depend on each other and should be intertwined and stop trying to break them apart with this silly “/” thing. And next time you feel steam coming out of your ears from a Millennial who is “on their device,” maybe you should take a deep breath and instead of blowing up at them you should try complimenting them on how well they are molding together their work and personal lives!

Team Meeting Photo via Shutterstock

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Adam Sonnhalter Adam Sonnhalter is the co-owner of Maximum Value Partners providing coaching and direction for the profitability and sustainability of small businesses. He is also co-host with Jack Mencini on the weekly radio show/podcast Dirty Secrets of Small Business® that debunks the common myths of business ownership, exposes the impact of government regulations and shares small business success stories.

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