2015 was the year when Generation Y (millennial) has taken a significant percentage of the labor market in most European countries. Today we are preparing intensively for the Generation Z. Because the generational workplace diversity is an actual debate, this also generates myths, exaggerations, and uncomfortable truths. How does Generation Y answers to the family, technological, economical or emotional challenges? How are they able to go to an everyday full-time job, to take of their own development, to pursue hobbies, to start a family, to keep in touch with parents, go out with friends, honor a coffee invitation coming from a friend in need, acquire new skills, complete their studies ... the list goes on for a long time. All of these are challenges that employees around us are feeling every day - completely or not - depending on different circumstances and contexts.
These instances were reunited in a concept generally said "work-life balance". Work-life balance originally appeared near the concept of stress (Rantanen, 2011). In recent years, the discussion was moved to a more … positive direction. Work-life balance was interpreted as "the satisfaction and efficiency level of an individual both at work, and at home, with minimal role conflicts between the two" (Clark, 2000). The scientific world has reached a consensus on the fact that work-life balance affects self-esteem, job satisfaction and overall is a sign of "good life". But there is no agreement yet neither concerning the factors that influence it nor how to measure work-life balance (Grzywacz & Carlson, 2007).
Why work-life balance is an important feature of the workforce - for employees, but also for employers? Why is this specifically important for Millennial Generation? How big data can help us in this matter?
Balance means a state of equilibrium, a stable relationship between two forces of equal magnitude and in opposite directions, but for Generation Y the personal time can`t be weighted/allocated proportionally with the professional time for reasonable and legitimate reasons. Also, the opposite. Therefore, the balance is a metaphorical one.
How does this translate on a day by day program and why it is important? The estimates are saying that in the decade 2020-2030 approximately 50-75% of the labor market will be represented by members of Generation Y - the youth aged between 18-33 years (the forecasts varies depending on the different sources and national characteristics - even though in a globalized context the latter will matter less and less).
The Millennial is seen by his parents and grandparents as a kind of "hub of the universe", who thinks he knows everything. They think that the millennial has a bit (too) much self-confidence and that he is "intelligent, but good-for-nothing". Maybe… But because he is not in the mood and out of time to learn about this world in fixed educational systems that constrict him, he builds a new one. A new world that affects everyone: his parents, his employers, his friends, the environment altogether.
Here are five features that reveal the battle that takes place when it comes to work-life balance for each representative of the Millennial Generation:
Laziness or autonomy? Millennial Generation emphasizes autonomy and independence differently than the previous generations and sometimes translates this into a desire not to be stuck in a workday schedule. This desire should not be confused with laziness. When they are motivated and engaged at work, Millennial Generation is able to work 50-60 hours a week (Ernst & Young, 2015).
The life of youth at 25 in Romania: between education, children and the workplace - In two-thirds of the European countries 10% of students have children (BA,MA,Ph.D). The average age of students with children is about 27 years in Romania. In 2015, Romania has 45.000 students with children (out of 500.000 - the total national number of Romanian students, estimates Min. Of Education in 2015) (Eurostudent, 2015). 2 of 3 young people aged over 25 are working full time in Romania (Center for Urban and Regional Sociology, 2014).
When the partners are working and the bosses don`t get why: 78% of Millennial Generation members have a spouse / partner working full time. In contrast with only 47% of those in Generation X (34-49 years), who are now a majority in management positions in companies. It created what is called "the empathy gap" between older employees (with the role of breadwinner) that has a family member with a role of caregiver (or the caregiver is also a part-time breadwinner) versus younger employee who tries to do everything by himself (each partner is also breadwinning and caregiving at the same time). The Millennial Generation is not the only one who wants to achieve a balance between work and personal life, but they are among the only ones willing to leave the company when this does not happen. They are convinced that they can adapt quickly to new technologies and they have solid professional skills.
When it comes to work-life balance, work is usually winning: In 2014, ¼ of Romanian youth aged between 20-29 have reported 50 hours or more/ per week worked overtime, therefore with at least 25% above the legal norm (Center for Urban and Regional Sociology, 2014).
We are flooded with studies outlining the characteristics of a whole generation that puts all their members in the same pot according to one criterion: their age. In fact, we all see that things are changing rapidly, often we hear on the street lines beginning with "This generation with his technology ..." and we can observe how some people with the same age have distinctive features. Some of us, scared of the hasty generalizations of the past, decide to take each person as such, as a unitary self-contained individual, with its own characteristics. It's understandable how difficult it is for employers and employees to make decisions based on the professional resume of a generation.
If we reconsider the business environment, we see that decision-making within a company is taken in most cases based on numbers and percentages, group performances, customer satisfaction or figures which show turnover of staff. Actually also statistics, big data or macro indicators. Predictive analytics solutions of the workforce have helped in the past and still help employers to discover certain patterns of action for employees, of business environments, market trends, and gives them the missing pieces of the decision-making puzzle. Also helps employees showing them how to be with an eye to the past and with the other to the future, like a god Janus and its two faces. It is, therefore, important to pay attention to forecasting analyzes and macro indicators of a generation in order to not be taken by surprise. Neither as an employer, nor as an employee.
How can we reconcile all? Taking them one by one!
There are a number of on-the-spot interventions when we experience an imbalance, but firstly we need to have an honest discussion with us about work-life balance. We can apply the concept of "tech free time" when we are with friends or family. News-feed can wait, conversation in the real world can`t.
Secondly, we can follow a common sense advice that our grandparents knew better: when tired - take a break. It is recommended that about 4-5 months of uninterrupted work to organize a recreational context.
When we look for a job to consider companies with flexible hours. There are times when this option will outweigh quickly and without a doubt all others such as salary, proximity to home, company's prestige etc.
We schedule time for personal hobbies and activities.
We keep abreast of developments around us to always be armed with current skills in our career. We have a frank discussion with ourselves about the triad job-career- vocation (calling) in order to give the significance of work and the meaning of personal dimensions accordingly to life stages.
Each of us controls his/hers life-work balance, it is unfair to expect this from the government or the company we work. We are responsible for the boundaries that we want in our lives.
Work-life balance changes depending moments of life. There are moments when job decisions can be fundamentally incompatible with being involved in your own personal life: building a family, traveling, committing to a project that you`re feeling a calling etc.
Observation: Gen Y (18 — 33 ani); Gen X (34 — 49 ani); Baby Boomers (50 — 68 ani).
Clark, S.C (2000), Work-family border theory: a new theory of work/family balance, Human Relations, no. 53:747-770.
Clarke, M.C., Koch, L.C, Hill, E.J., (2004) The work-family interface: differentiating balance and fit, în Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, no. 33:121-140
Ernst&Young, (2015) Work-life challenges across generations. Millennials and parents hit hardest
Eurostudent, (2015) Social and Economic Conditions of Student Life in Europe 2012-2015. România - national report (The data have been compared with the ones from Eurostat, there were unsignificant differences)
Grzywacz J.G., Carlson D.S., (2007) Conceptualizing work-family balance: Implications for practice and research în Advances in Developing Human Resources. no. 9:455-71.
Rantanen,J., Kinnunen, U., Mauno, S,. & Tillemann, K. (2011), Creating balance? International perspectives on the work-life integration of professionals, pp. 27-47.
by Ariel Pontes
by Dorin Cazan
by Delia Mircea