Baby Boomers – Generation X – Millennials and Beyond
Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials have all had a different approach to what work life balance has meant to them, based partly on the era in which they grew up and in what they witnessed in both their parents and grandparents generations.
People born between 1945 and 1960, in the generation known as Baby Boomers, grew up in an era where having a stable career that produced the income necessary to feed your family was the primary task. Reliability and consistency were the main priority for baby boomers and by default they put in continual effort to not only maintain the roles they were in but to be promoted into higher roles where they have remained VP’s, directors and senior executives.
Generation X (born between 1961 and 1980) were the children, nieces and nephews of Baby Boomers. They watched and were personally affected by the absence of their parents, while parents toiled away for the “company” the children determined they would achieve a better “work life balance” than the baby boomers had. Generation X witnessed first hand the negative effects that long hours and cancelled vacations had on their families and relationships which by default created the first generation of people chasing the elusive “work life balance.” In this generation extended maternity leave, the introduction of paternity leave, personal days and increased amounts of PTO became a priority for candidates on a job search.
Individuals born between 1981 and 2000, also known as Millennials, adopted the efforts created by Generation X and took it to the next level. Ping Pong tables, sofas and food trucks began to show up in place of conference room tables or cafeterias. In previous generations the norm was to think of work as a way to pay for the life that you wanted to live. However, Millennials have taken that and transitioned to YOLO (you only live once) and a mindset that questions why wait for retirement when you can travel and live your best life NOW! While the original stereotype of a millennial friendly work environment was to add bean bag chairs, pinball machines and free soda or coffee the reality is Millennials are in pursuit of a career that not only funds their lifestyle but is dictated by their lifestyle. Perhaps the greatest challenge to keeping the millennial work force happy is that their radical individualism means that their definition of “life style” varies greatly and that the real answer to keeping Millennial employees happy is no longer extra vacation or ping pong but overall flexibility.
Flexibility … you may be wondering, what exactly does that mean? Gone are the days that all students graduate from high school and either enter the work force directly or go to a higher education where they enter the workforce after. In today’s reality there are 101 ways to make money. The gig economy has blown up and from copy writing for Amazon, dog walking, trading stocks or delivering food for skip the dishes the opportunities available to Millennials and even Gen Z’s to earn a living on their time schedule is endless. Because of this many of them are no longer accustomed to the demands of a 9-5 and are pushing hard to find employers who are willing to accommodate their unique needs, and asking for special accommodations to make work fit with the rest of their life. Organizations are accustomed to policies and procedures that create consistent reliable results, but when every employee wants special consideration how do you determine what’s fair? This should be the number 1 question that forward thinking management teams are wrestling with right now.