Two friends were talking about their aspirations. Both had spent several years at the same company, enjoyed the work and the culture, and made advancements in their careers.
One friend was surprised to hear that the other had recently turned down a big promotion. He asked, “Are you sure you made the right decision? A move like that could’ve put you on easy street. Those opportunities don’t come around often.”
“Most people would agree with you,” the friend replied. “But I have a different take on the matter. I believe there is more to life than having a fancy title or big paycheck.
“There’s a price to be paid for that corner office. Long hours, a lot of travel and expectations that would require sacrifices I’m not willing to make,” he said. “The truth of the matter is that I already have my dream job. The money is good, the work is fulfilling and the work/life balance allows me to always be home in time for dinner. I’ve never missed one of my son’s baseball games, and I’ve never left work at the end of the day mentally drained.”
“I never thought of it in those terms,” the first friend answered.
His friend continued, “Most of us spend so much time chasing after success that we don’t recognize what we already have is more than enough.”
Some of you reading this story will wonder if the friend is absolutely brilliant, totally lacking ambition, or just giving in to the pressures of life.
I would say none of the above! This person has figured out better than most how to set priorities. Instead of living for work, she understands the concept of working to live.
It’s a trend that will not go out of style any time soon. Studies show that Gen Xers and Millennials are looking for work-life balance as they begin their careers or search for new opportunities.
Ryan Jenkins, author of “The Millennial Manual: The Complete How-To Guide to Manage, Develop, and Engage Millennials at Work,” identifies work-life balance as one of 47 strategies central to working with the next generations of workers. He explains why:
- It defines success. Millennials don’t view climbing the corporate ladder or owning tangible items (job title, house, salary, car, etc.) as success. Instead, success is having control over how and when they work and accumulating various life experiences, which are enabled by a better work-life balance.
- They’re always on. Millennials are the first generation to enter the workforce with access to technology that enables them to seamlessly work remotely, and are eager to capitalize on technological capabilities to create more flexibility and balance.
- They’re moving up. Nearly one-third of Millennials say that managing their work, family and personal responsibilities has become more difficult in the past five years. Almost half of Millennial managers around the globe reported an increase in their hours at a time when many are moving into management and starting families (compared to 38 percent for Gen X and 28 percent for Boomers).
- They’re dual income. Millennials are almost twice as likely to have a spouse or partner who works at least full time than Boomers (78 percent versus 47 percent).
“The bottom line is that Millennials are entering a stage of life when they are marrying, buying homes and having children at the same time that the demands of work are increasing, while they are equipped (and sometimes expected) to work 24/7. It’s no wonder that Millennials value work-life balance higher than all other job characteristics such as job progression, use of technology and a sense of meaning at work,” Jenkins says.
Generational expert Giselle Kovary concurs: “Many Millennials don’t necessarily want to set clear boundaries between their work and their life. For a lot of people in this generational cohort, they prefer ‘work-life integration,’ an overall blending of work life and home life to allow time for both. This blurs the lines between work tasks and personal activities which can include a person doing online shopping, checking social media, going to the gym or taking their dog for a walk during work hours while responding to work emails on evenings and weekends.
“As organizations shift into a new world of work, virtual teams and the ability to maximize flexibility through technology will become increasingly commonplace. Those organizations that capitalize on this and embrace the benefits will be able to attract and retain Millennials and high performers from all generations.”
Mackay’s Moral: Learn how to balance, not juggle, your work and life.