There’s a paradox sitting at the heart of the issue of work/life balance at the moment.
More and more people sleep next to their phones, take devices on dates and digitally connect at meal times. Many people want to be “always on”. But when you’re open and available, it’s hard to choose to ignore it when the emails happen to be from the office or the tweets are coming from the boss.
The concept of work/life balance largely precedes the advent of digital technology. The term was first coined in the 1970s, but 100 years ago, employees were taking papers home their work finished up.
Round-the-clock digital response and connection is much more pervasive. Research suggests that many millennials want their home life to be just that, in fact, 100% that. One global study of full-time workers in eight countries conducted by Ernst & Young finds that millennials – and particularly millennial parents – are so serious about finding work/life balance, they’re willing to relocate if it means they can move into a job that offers it.
"It’s hard to choose to ignore it when the emails happen to be from the office or the tweets are coming from the boss." Image via iStock.
This is only one snapshot, but there’s a lot of research around at the moment about work/life balance. Employees want to bring their own devices to work, and enjoy social media connection in whatever way suits them. But they want to close the door on work when they get home and not be pestered by work at home. And they are serious about it. The Ernst & Young study found:
Millennials in the survey are also more willing than other generations to pass up a promotion, change jobs, take a pay cut, or even change careers in order to achieve more flexibility.
So, here’s the paradox: People are encouraged to bring their own devices to work and yet many of those people who want to check personal updates at work don’t want it to work in the other direction. But it is hard to resist: the technology is an enabler of a poor work/life balance, and precedents are quickly established.
The digitally native generation are more than able and used to taking devices home with them. A survey by Workfront found that 22% of baby boomers in the 55-64 age bracket thought it was OK to answer a work email during dinner. Ask 18-34-year-old millenials though, and that shoots up to 52%. More than half of adults questioned in a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair survey, meanwhile, said monitoring emails outside office hours was routine.
And so it seems that millennials who have become used to this constant digital connection are increasingly pushing back, even to the point of stepping away from the organisations who force it upon them. Evidence for dissatisfaction is growing.
Almost two-thirds of fathers who have youngsters under school age do not have a work pattern that suits them, according to a Guardian survey). Half the respondents were worried that requests for flexible or home working would be seen as a “lack of commitment”.