The Millennial Shift: Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Integration

As one of the most influential generations of our time, millennials have initiated a significant shift in today’s work-life environment.

These days, the big question isn’t about how we obtain work-life balance, but rather how we integrate our work with our families, friends, hobbies, personal goals, etc. Drawing a distinct line between our personal lives and our work lives has become something of the past, thanks to things like technology and our constant ability to plug-in at work.

Instead, we’re more concerned with work-life integration.

According to a recent study conducted by Ernst & Young, nearly one-third of millennials say managing their work, family, and personal responsibilities has become more difficult in the last five years.

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It makes sense, doesn’t it? With the constant rise in technological advances swarms across corporate offices everywhere, people are literally carrying their job around in their pockets. We receive emails on our cell phones, we attend meetings via Skype, we respond to client questions before bed, and we’re constantly plugged in to our social media outlets. Combine this non-stop work awareness with our increased responsibilities at home, it’s no wonder we desire the flexible schedule that comes with work-life integration.

Balance – noun: a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

Integration – noun: an act or instance of combining into an integral whole.

Work-life balance revolves around mutual exclusivity between our career and our home-life. As in, when you leave the office at 5 p.m., you actually leave every aspect of your job at the office. You’re not expected to take home work-related projects. You don’t answer emails at the dinner table, you avoid your digital devices like the plague, and you respect the separation between your work responsibilities and your responsibilities at home. You check-in to the office at 8 a.m. and you leave at 5 p.m., every day, without fail. No ifs, ands, or buts.

 

Work-life integration, however, suggests we incorporate our work and life into one fulfilling purpose. It means having more flexibility with your schedule. If you need to take your kids to school every morning before checking-in to the office – that’s cool. If you need to leave early every Wednesday to attend that economics class you signed up for – good for you. You can make up the missed work hours later that night or the next day, right? Right.

 

With the work-life integration philosophy, companies trust their employees to get their work done, regardless of how many hours they log in at the office or where they’re getting their work done. 75% of millennials want the ability to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion. If a company trusts their employees and employees understand and are committed to company expectations, a flexible schedule, going back to school, or any other personal growth endeavor or family-related activity should never get in the way of promotion or advancement.

Not all companies or employees embrace work-life integration, though. Despite the fact that 74% of employees say “being able to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion” is a major concern when accepting job positions, some companies are still resistant to a work-life integration mindset. In fact, one in six employees say they experienced negative consequences after requesting their employer permit them to have a flexible schedule, according to the E&Y Survey.

Why? Because earlier generations continue to occupy more management positions and hold more traditional values, thus having the most say and dominance in employee schedules and overall work environment. Baby Boomers have seldom experienced a work environment that tolerates flexible schedules and telecommuting, so they’re probably less inclined to jump on board the integration train.

On the contrary, millennials are the children of Baby Boomers – a generation consumed by their careers – and our younger generations are not eager to repeat their parent’s career habits. They long for a healthier work-life relationship, one that promotes flexibility, company trust, and the ability to work from anywhere.

Whether you side with work-life balance or work-life integration, there’s no denying that younger generations are creating a shift in today’s work philosophy. By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be comprised of millennials, so it might be wise for companies to start tailoring their rules and regulations to the desires and expectations of the upcoming millennial-talent. In ten years, millennials will be the ones in charge, and companies might want them on their side.

Things are changing. And as I sit in a cozy coffee shop writing this very blog post, I can’t help but feel exceptionally grateful that I work for a company that trusts their employees’ work ethic and respects their personal lives.

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