Millennials have been called a lot of things: lazy, narcissistic, distracted, prone to job switching. But when it comes down to it, professional millennials in the workforce really only want one thing—work-life balance. Here’s a deeper look at why work-life balance is so important to millennials (spoiler: it’s not because we’re lazy.)
What millennials’ work-life balance really needs
While it’s hard to speak broadly about such a large group of people (roughly 73 million in the U.S. and growing through immigration), studies indicate that, by and large, millennials in the workforce prioritize work-life balance over other perks, including job status, pay, and trendy office spaces.
A recent millennials work-life balance study by Deloitte that interviewed 7,700 millennials from 29 countries shed some light on how millennials have earned the reputation from their elder generations as lazy, narcissistic, and disloyal.
Among other things, the study emphasizes that, contrary to the opinions of many baby boomers and even members of Generation X who complain that millennials are lazy and don’t work as hard as their generation, young workers work longer hours than previous generations. The difference is that millennials don’t see the workday as a set 9 – 5 operation that only takes place within the confines of their office.
On the contrary, millennials tend to feel obligated to check their work email first thing in the morning, then take a long lunch to attend a function at their child’s school or go to the gym. After leaving the office, they’re less likely to unplug than members of older generations. Sending off emails at 8 pm then talking with a team member over slack before bed is considered the norm, as is spending a few hours working on a project or catching up on emails over the weekend. A report from Manpower Group found that 73 percent of millennials work more than 40 hours per week, putting in hours a day the previous generations.
And yet, most millennials don’t work somewhere that encourages this type of remote working or flexible hours. Deloitte’s study found that a whopping 88 percent of people interviewed responded that they wish they could have more opportunities to choose when they start and end their workday. In addition, 75 percent of millenials like to work from home or work remotely at another location outside of the office where they feel they can be more productive. Only 43 percent of employees currently work somewhere with this flexibility.
How millennials want to work and live
Gallup recently released a report called “How Millennials Want to Work and Live.” Among the key findings is that millennials want to work for a company that aligns with their core beliefs and values. Millennials, unlike previous generations, aren’t just chasing a paycheck. They see their jobs as an integral part of their life, and, therefore, want meaningful work culture, somewhere that gives them a purpose in life. To millennials, work-life integration means working for a company that values their strengths and gives them opportunities to develop while simultaneously empowering them to manage their personal lives.
As the oldest millennials are nearing the age of 40, it’s time to stop looking at the generation as “kids” or “future leaders.” Millennials are overtaking Generation X and baby boomers in the workforce in every position, including leadership positions. And with that comes a changing attitude in how professionals want to work and live.
How millennials’ personal lives affect their work lives
One significant difference in the millennial generation than previous ones is that more millennials are in a dual-career household. More women than ever are in the workforce (roughly 72 percent). Because they’re better educated than previous generations of women who were in the workforce, millennial women aren’t just working for a paycheck. They’re building careers and living alongside partners who are doing the same thing.
This dual-career household model explains the urgent need for more flexibility from employers for both men and women, especially for those who have young children and/or aging parents to take care of.
Millennials are increasingly becoming members of a so-called “sandwich generation,” in which they are simultaneously caring for young children and aging parents and grandparents. Combine this with career goals, massive student loan debt, and stagnating wages, and it’s easy to see why so many millennials don’t just want but need a job that gives them the flexibility to choose when their workday begins and ends. Starting a workday at 5 am and ending at 10 pm with breaks to care for a family is optimal for many millennials, instead of a more stifling 9 – 5 workday that doesn’t allow for life interruptions. Some more innovative employers offer this as a healthy work-life balance option.
Employers need to take note of millennials’ needs for achieving a work-life balance, as this generation is setting the tone for future generations. Creating a workplace culture that empowers employees to choose when to start and end their workday leads to lower turnover and higher employee engagement and loyalty.