Work-Life Balance? For Millennials, It’s All About Work-Life Integration
Feb. 11 2015, Published 2:30 a.m. ET
There’s no truer cliché in today’s workplace than that the ancient Greek saying, “The only thing that is constant is change.” The business workplace has already undergone, and will continue to undergo, massive changes as younger generations of workers climb their way up the corporate ladder (or build their own ladder by starting their own companies).
Whereas obtaining a work-life balance may have been the goal of employees over the past few decades, the line between professional and personal lives for Millennials is nearly invisible. Our work lives and our personal lives have essentially melded together.
As with any change, we have two options. We can either resist it, or we can embrace it. When it comes to Millennials, we’re opting for the latter. We are choosing the path of least resistance when it comes to keeping our personal lives entirely distinct from our professional lives. Instead of choosing to balance our work lives with our personal lives, we’ve opted to do what seems more natural, by integrating the two.
So what does work-life integration actually look like for Millennials?
Today, smart phones are the norm for every young business person in the workplace. Rather than waiting until 9:00 am to view our emails from our office computer, we’re happy to answer emails via phone over breakfast, or while on the treadmill, so that we get an early jump on the day. Whereas in the past, some might say that this early morning work is cutting into our “personal” time, as the youngest generation in the work place, we know that it may just save us an hour later, so we can enjoy a longer lunch later in the day.
Millennials are definitely fortunate to work during a time when having a “cool” company culture is a top priority for most companies. Businesses across the board have recognized that happy employees are productive employees. As such, businesses are paying greater attention to detail to their office space – and making sure that it is a comfortable, positive, and inspiring environment for their team to spend so much of every day. Offices today feel far less sterile than those of years past. In lieu of a paltry vending machine and low lit break room, companies now have full kitchens, and in many instances a game room, or breakout room where employees can spend time together, and strengthen the bonds of the team.
Innovation in office design really does make our offices feel like our homes away from home, and our colleagues feel like friends and family. Full disclosure: I do happen to work with my family, and my boyfriend, and my four-pound dog, Riley, so for me this rings true tenfold. But for Millennials as a whole, these days it feels like we’re at home at home, and we feel at home at work too.
Other examples of how businesses are going to great lengths to make their company culture attractive can be seen in the growing number of on-site child care opportunities, or even “kid’s corners” popping up at companies, such as in Ivanka Trump’s office. Other companies encourage employees to bring their dogs to work. Sir Richard Branson recently made a huge splash in the press by saying that his employees can take as many vacation days as they want, as long as their work is up to par. These very public examples are driving even small, private companies to create strong cultures for their employees as well.
Campus Setting Convenience
One of the other reasons that Millennials have been able to integrate their work and personal lives is due to the emergence of “all-in-one” campuses or office spaces. With office design expanding to incorporate not just the actual work space, but community spaces within the office (i.e. gourmet kitchens, gyms, TV rooms, putting greens), we’ve been able to blend our professional lives with our personal hobbies and daily functions.
Some of the largest employers of young workers, such as Google and Facebook, have campuses with amenities like coffee shops and even full restaurants right on their grounds. They offer in house massages, or have Thai food delivered once a week. Other companies are choosing to move their offices to urban areas within convenient walking distance to stores and restaurants, rather than renewing leases in the suburbs where there are less accessible amenities.
It’s clear that for Millennials, the idea that work should be separate from your “life” just doesn’t resonate. Work is a huge part of our lives. It’s one cog in the proverbial wheel. We’ve grown up with the entire world accessible at our fingertips, and we’re comfortable with it. We’re used to getting emails way past normal business hours. We enjoy being able to get ahead for the next day by working a bit from our home or our phone before the official start of the business day. We like the flexibility we have, because to us, work isn’t just something we do, work is a major part of our overall lifestyle. It helps define us. And we’re grateful that we have the opportunity to be able to integrate our work in our personal lives. In fact, we really wouldn’t have it any other way.