Understanding Generation Y – Work-life Balance
Generation Y – those born between 1980 and 2000 – are entering the workforce ‘en masse’ and it won’t be long before they dominate it. In this series of articles I will explore different characteristics of Gen Y, or ‘Millennials’, and what it means for business.
Following on from looking at Technology in my last article, we now look at another characteristic of Generation Y – a desire for work-life balance. Now many argue that this is not a unique characteristic as everyone would like a better work-life balance! However, Gen Y insist on it. Furthermore, if they don’t get it they may seek it elsewhere.
PWC research suggests that 71% of Millennials feel that their work life interferes with their personal life. A big concern for professional services such as law firms is that Millennials might not be convinced that the excessive demands placed on them at work are worth the sacrifices to their personal lives. Consider the long training period, low salary and long working hours that are part and parcel of training to be a lawyer. In turn this could lead to a real shortage of talent entering the professional services, unless addressed.
A misconception is that Generation Y are lazy and ill-disciplined – wanting to leave work at a reasonable time so they can go and have fun – outrageous! But this isn’t the case, they may be happy to work from home, or Starbucks, or on a Saturday morning in their pyjamas – something their older colleagues can’t relate to.
Millennials have a blurry boundary between home and work, they don’t mind taking work home but they also expect to be able to bring their personal lives to work – running errands, taking personal phone calls and so on. This has led one commentator to refer to it as ‘work-life integration’ not balance – to Generation Y they are one and the same.
So what do we do about this? Managing expectations plays a big part. 28% of Millennials feel that their work-life balance is worse than they thought it would be before they started their job – so make it clear what you expect from them from day 1, or even during the recruitment process.
Secondly, delegate effectively. Set clear targets and deadlines, then stand back and let them get on with it. Trust them to be able to manage their own time, they may wish to leave early to attend a gym class, but keep working when they get home later.
Law firms in particular have traditionally measured ‘desk time’ and rewarded long hours worked. Try focusing on effort and output rather than presence in the office or at their desk. After all, isn’t that the most important thing?
Next time: ‘Understanding Generation Y – Development and Progression’