Are you trying to hang onto the idea of work-life balance, despite the down economy? If so, how?
When GenY first began to graduate into the workforce several years ago, stirring up commentary about the differences between generations of workers, one fact about this new cohort was repeated again and again: teens and 20-somethings were crazy for work-life balance.
Reports that this was a work-to-live generation rather than the other way around came thick and fast on both sides of the Atlantic. USA Today declared way back in 2005 that
unlike boomers who tend to put a high priority on career, today’s youngest workers are more interested in making their jobs accommodate their family and personal lives. They want jobs with flexibility, telecommuting options and the ability to go part time or leave the workforce temporarily when children are in the picture.
British newspaper The Guardian agreed in 2008, claiming that young people in the UK, “have watched with horror as their parents worked punishing hours in their scramble for money and status. Now… they have different priorities. They care less about salaries, and more about flexible working, time to travel and a better work-life balance.”
And even in 2009, a survey of 60,000 undergraduates claimed they weren’t letting a raging recession stand in the way of their dreams of a more balanced lifestyle. At that time, according to Tracy Lynn Drye of Universum USA, which carried out the research, GenY continued to value work-life balance above all else when listing top characteristics of an ideal entry-level employer, above even salary and meaningful work.
Now that the economic gloom has persisted for several years and some frustrated members of the classes of ’09 and ’10 watch more recent grads get jobs while they remain unemployed, are young people finally being forced to change their tune when it comes to work-life balance?
Recent numbers from British consultancy JBA suggest yes. “Younger staff expressed 15-20 percent less desire than their older colleagues to choose their time and place to work. In fact, they actively seek out every opportunity to be in the office in the closest proximity to their boss,” concludes the company’s new report. Another new UK study from O2 charts the rise of “presenteeism” among workers of all generations who feel they have to demonstrate long hours in the office to secure their jobs during tough times.
GenY is no doubt afflicted as well.
In one way, it’s perfectly natural that the most unemployed generation would lower its expectations in the face of the worst economic picture in decades. But once you’ve spent years dreaming of something better, can you really go back to being jailed in an office from nine to five without generating plenty of productivity killing resentment?
So what’s to be done? It’s a question with no simple or singular answer. For some workers, perhaps the solution is designing their lives to be less expensive and allow more freedom from the constant need to earn. No New York City for these types, (hello, Detroit) but choosing to spend less to work less might be the answer for folks with certain types of ambitions.
Others are blowing up traditional career paths and aiming to forge either their own gig-based, piecemeal career or start their own business. GenY is, after all, hugely interested in entrepreneurialism. This way, you may be always working, but at least you’re always working for yourself and have the flexibility to slip in some actual living during every down moment.
So what’s your solution: Are you trying to hang onto the idea of work-life balance despite the economy? If so, how?