Millennials. Every time I get called this word from a person of an older generation I can’t help but cringe.
The word has gone beyond simply describing a generation who was born between a specific time period, and the way in which millennial predecessors use it, the word now carries a negative connotation. From lazy, to broke, to non-committal, to overstaying their welcome in their parents’ basement, I’ve seen it all and I’ve heard it all, and frankly, I’m tired of a massive, diverse group of people born between 1980 to who knows when in 2000, being defined in this negative light.
Yes, I love avocado toast. Yes, I took my sweet time before I got married. No, I haven’t stayed at a job for 40 years like you, Karen. But, what I will say is that some of the qualities we’re taking flack for represent a bigger problem with society, and the workplace is no exception.
While scrolling through LinkedIn, I couldn’t help but notice an article from The New York Post titled, “Burned-out millennials are quitting lucrative jobs”. Naturally, I clicked on the article and read through. The article featured a young woman in her twenties who left her career in PR to freelance and travel the world. Some Baby Boomers can’t seem to wrap their heads around this concept or what on earth would drive a millennial to do such a thing – exchange stability for the unknown, this is pure chaos.
As a millennial reading the article, I was hardly surprised and here’s why. For the most part, the workplace still operates in the very same way it did not a century before, but a century before that, when the 9 to 5 work day was conceived during the Industrial Revolution. Now, I ask you this, what aspects of our everyday life are still the same as they were two centuries ago? With technology changing every time we blink, allowing us the opportunity to work from wherever we want, whenever we want, as long as we’re connected to Wi-Fi, why are we still chained to this rigid structure?
While I understand, we can’t expect our employers to allow us to pack up our bags and work remotely in Bali for a year, what I don’t understand is the lack of willingness to be more flexible in the workplace. Whether it’s offering more flexibility in the hours we work, the days we work, the locations we work from, or the amount of time we work, these conversations not only need to be had, but the option for change needs to be considered and implemented – especially if employers want employees to stay, and better yet, want them to be happy.
While Baby Boomers valued stability and the idea of clocking in and clocking out, that reality is long gone. Millennials grew up in a world, and continue to live in a world, where nothing is certain. From terrorist attacks, to recessions, to the housing crash and beyond, even when something appears stable, we have apprehension. As a result, we began to value flexibility over stability. According to a 2016 study by Deloitte, millennials value work-life balance higher than all other job characteristics. This includes job progression, use of technology, and sense of meaning at work. Additionally, 75% of millennials want more opportunities to work remotely.
So, rather than assuming we all want the same things in the workplace, or refusing to give up the notion that the only way to do a job is while sitting at one’s desk from 9 to 5, a shift needs to be made to offer more of what we want. Perhaps, when this is achieved, we will see burnout rates drop, more millennials staying at their jobs long term, and we will see more happy, fulfilled employees.
The world is changing, it’s time the workplace changes too.