Creating a work life balance for millennial employees

For decades, nine-to-fivers have struggled to strike a balance between work and home life, but many have yet to reach the point of equilibrium. As millennials enter virtually every industry en masse and begin to shape the direction of the American workplace, the drive for a balance between work and life is significantly stronger.

As the Washington Post reports, more than three-quarters of millennial households include dual-income couples with two full-time earners. That means in the average millennial household, both partners spend around 40 hours per week at the office, in the classroom, or in the studio. Since they cumulatively spend so much time at work and so little time at home, most millennials see some level of flexibility in the workplace as the ideal way to achieve that work-life balance.

Though flexibility in the workplace may seem natural to millennials, it doesn’t seem quite so necessary to their baby boomer superiors. After all, less than 50 percent of baby boomer households include two full-time working spouses. In fact, over a quarter of baby boomer managers have spouses who work part-time hours, providing much of the necessary household flexibility.

This generational disconnect can make it challenging for millennials to achieve the balance they need, but businesses willing to give millennials a voice in the ongoing work-life balance conversation stand to benefit substantially. Those that don’t may encounter even higher rates of turnover, which can be prohibitively expensive for even the most efficient companies.

Forward-thinking companies can look forward to positive side effects that range from improved performance to increased loyalty to a greater sense of employee well-being. For many businesses, however, zeroing in on the perks that increase productivity while improving happiness is still a work in progress.

Work-life balance might not mean exactly the same thing to every millennial, but most can agree on a few key perks that help them successfully juggle work responsibilities with home life. Employers looking to create the ideal work-life balance for millennials should consider the following nine strategies.

Remote work opportunities

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study reveals a fascinating trend in how millennials approach work. Rather than thinking of work as a place, which many of their baby boomer and Generation X managers do, millennials view work as something with no specific location.

That means many millennials are open to working anywhere, whether it’s in a company’s headquarters, in a New York City shared office, at a coffee shop anywhere in the world, or simply at home. In fact, millennials increasingly expect and demand the ability to work in flexible locations. Rather than reporting to the same office each day, millennials want the option to work remotely to better balance work and home commitments.

Flexible work hours

When it comes to millennials and work-life balance, flexible work hours are also mission critical. While their predecessors committed to a regimented 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule with a clear division between work responsibilities and home life, millennials want the option to put in the time when they can. This may mean adopting a completely different set of work hours, completing a day’s work in multiple blocks of time throughout the day, or making up for lost time in evenings or on weekends, as home life allows.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers study also shows that millennials place much higher value on their overall output than on the number of hours they spend on the job. Managers might consider this working smarter rather than working harder, and with appropriate performance and productivity objectives in place, many companies should be able to accommodate flexible work hours effortlessly.

Adaptable paid time off

Along with flexible time on the job, millennials increasingly need more space to stretch their time off. Traditional PTO packages tend to divide days by purpose, designating sick days, vacation days, and personal days.

As millennial employees navigate work responsibilities and family life, however, they no longer want to have to designate specific purposes for PTO days. Instead, they prefer a pool of days off they can use for family commitments, vacation, or health and well-being.

For most millennial employees, parental leave is a key component of PTO. The Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees a mere 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a variety of family-related needs, which isn’t sufficient for many employees juggling health issues, child care, and the needs of elderly parents. American companies have long lagged behind employers in other nations in terms of either a comprehensive or a generous parental leave package, but millennial employees have demonstrated that this is essential for both moms and dads to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Employers that may be hesitant to offer a more generous parental leave package or even the option for unpaid leave time can find comfort in a recent Deloitte study that shows employees who are parents tend to be more loyal than employees who don’t have children. Essentially, by enabling millennials to juggle family and work life effectively, both employees and employers benefit.

Emphasis on collaboration and teamwork

Numerous studies have shown that millennial employees approach most jobs with a surprisingly low rate of commitment. While their predecessors may have pursued jobs with the intention of staying with their companies for the entire length of their careers, most millennials anticipate leaving their jobs within a few years.

One of the key ways employers can build employee loyalty while simultaneously offering better work-life balance is by emphasizing collaborative work environments and providing frequent team-building activities. Ideally, this emphasis on teamwork stretches beyond work projects and includes family-based events in the workplace. In this kind of inclusive environment, millennial employees can mix work and life, build supportive friendships in the office, and strike the balance they need.

Opportunities for personal growth and development

The average millennial employee needs more than just a great paycheck and a collaborative work environment to inspire loyalty. Most millennials take their professional achievements seriously and highly value career advancement.

To climb the corporate ladder while maintaining a healthy balance between work and life, millennial employees need opportunities for personal growth and development in the workplace.

After all, employees from this generation are known for their passion and their desire for meaningful work. Employers who offer millennials opportunities to grow professionally while pursuing their personal passions are likely to encourage more dedicated and fulfilled employees.

Lower pay in exchange for better perks

Like employees of any generation, competitive pay attracts ambitious millennial employees. Most want much more than an impressive paycheck, though.

In fact, a recent Fidelity study shows that a high percentage of millennial employees are willing to consider pay cuts in exchange for an attractive position at a company that offers a strong work-life balance. Over half of surveyed millennials prefer a more supportive work environment to higher compensation with more rigorous work hours, and they’re willing to sacrifice thousands of dollars per year to strike the balance they need.

Occasional work-life crossover

With such a strong push toward balancing work and life, occasional crossover between the two is inevitable. While baby boomer managers may be inclined to police this dividing line actively to ensure that employees meet objectives, they should consider a more lenient stance.

Initially, managers may not embrace the idea of granting employees permission to engage in the occasional social media break on the clock or allowing parents to arrive late or leave early due to school pickups. However, if they expect employees to handle evening emails or catch up on work projects after dinner, they have to accept that work-life balance is a two-way street.

Managers as models

Though millennials and baby boomer or Generation X managers may not quite see eye to eye, younger employees need to see their supervisors modeling a desirable work-life balance. If companies offer a variety of perks and flexible schedules to entice millennials, none of these will retain their advertised value when they don’t see an example to model.

If baby boomer managers frequently work around the clock, only put in their hours in at the office, or never take time off for parental leave, they won’t provide the atmosphere they’re trying to present to their younger employees. After all, if senior employees insist on abiding by the old rules, they’ll set up conflicting expectations, which could have disastrous results.

Most companies don’t offer the ideal work-life balance yet, but if employers listen to what their employers need to succeed, they’ll help millennials find the equilibrium they’re seeking. While finding a healthy, productive work-life balance may require some major adjustments, it’s likely to be a solid investment for businesses in just about every industry.

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