Bloomberg is a great source for news. One of many things I like about the website is its focus on issues that affect working people. Today it offers five graphs that make a sad argument: “Work-life balance is dead.” First, managers in developed countries work more than 40 hours a week. Interestingly, the company listed where the fewest managers who work over 40 hours is China (19%). Second, millennials are trapped between responsibilities at work and home. Third, flexible hours are often a euphemism that gives the employer an option to keep workers on the job at any time and anywhere. Fourth, many people have stayed at their current jobs because they remember what happened in 2008. They are afraid to make a change. Finally, U.S. companies are among the worst in developed countries for giving parents time off to care for family needs.
Is work-life balance dead? Maybe. The points made in this article are very compelling in what they say about the current economy, especially for workers in their twenties and thirties. However, these conditions are neither necessary nor permanent. Working people – union and non-union – need to press federal and state legislators to pass laws that guarantee rights in the workplace. FMLA was a tepid step in that direction. On the other side of the coin, we have seen state after state cut weeks that laid off employees can collect unemployment insurance. Several states have passed “right to work” (for less) laws that hamper unions and lower wages. We need national standards to protect workers and stabilize the economy. We will not get such protection until working people vote for candidates who support labor.
I recently read an op-ed claiming that millennials are terrible workers: They don’t know how to communicate. They only want to work forty hours a week. They feel entitled.
Remember stories about slackers? Before that it was hippies. Beatniks. In each case, young people were smeared as lazy and unmanageable. The problem with this prejudice, like all other forms of prejudice, is that it demeans an entire group, and it is a simplification. I share some concern about the impact of texting on how we communicate. However, I know many people in their forties and fifties who hide behind texting when they should be making a call or holding a face-to-face meeting.
What’s wrong with millennials? The same thing that was wrong with slackers, hippies, and beatniks: They don’t control the mainstream media, and they aren’t making hiring decisions.
What I have seen in millennials is a type of realism about what work should be. One of my millennial clients took a big pay cut to have a better quality of life. I challenged her to think about how long it will take to make up the lost income and related raises. Without skipping a beat, she asked me what good the money will be if she is always miserable. She thought through what she was giving up and what she was gaining. I would call that good career management.
Are some millennials lazy? Of course. There were lazy Baby Boomers and probably even some lazy folks in the Greatest Generation. My impression is that millennials want to work in jobs that interest them and treat them fairly. They have learned from watching their parents and older brothers and sisters work hard with little reward. They understand the game.