The Coca Cola Company published an article about what “Work/Life Balance” might mean today. There is a shifting trend going on with Millennials (those born between 1982 & 2004). The way work is viewed varies from generation to generation. With the advent of technology, those lines are blurred even more. Just last night, before going to bed, I had a meeting request from someone – there are no real set office hours anymore. People can send meeting requests, texts, e-mails when on vacation, on the weekends or in my case, at night before bed.
This is what gets the younger generation up in arms. If I am working at night on a project, or am logging on to do work-related stuff, then why can’t I take an extra long lunch or come in a bit later in the morning (after all, I was working on your project)? When the traditionalists see office hours as 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, it’s a valid argument. Work is being done at different times of the day – so why shouldn’t there be flexibility during the 9 to 5 hours?
For those of us who have heard the term “Work/Life Balance” for at least a few decades now, still scratch our heads to see how it actually gets balanced out. For me, personally, it means making sure I am there when I need to be and everything in my personal life takes a back seat. That is NOT the case today. If there is flexibility in the time that you can do your work (and I am talking mainly of a desk job, with a computer that can be accessed from anywhere) then you should be able to do work at 3:00 am if you want to and take off from the office for a 3:00 pm Parent-Teacher conference.
Why is there such resistance to this flexible time notion? Doesn’t it mean that employees could possibly be working more if they are logging on at all hours of the day? According to the Coca Cola article, it’s about priorities and a seeming lack of respect. “I gotta leave” is the comment and there is no request “Hey, could I schedule an afternoon appointment with my child’s teacher or with my chiropractor or could I take a golf lesson?” Many of the Boomer generation did these things on their own time, especially the exercise or golf lesson part. To even think of doing something like that during the workday is unimaginable.
The bottom line is productivity. If Millennials are focused on the outcome of the project, they don’t care how many hours are spent on it – even if they are working into the night. In fact, many of the Millennials I have spoken to are more productive at night, actually preferring the peace and quiet instead of the morning hours when everyone is showing up to the office. The implication here is to take another look at how we view work.
We were made to work.In Genesis 2:15, God gave Adam a garden to work – even in a perfect setting, he was given something to do. After the Fall (Genesis 3:17-19), Adam was still going to work, except that it was going to require the sweat of his brow. WORK is not a dirty, four-letter word (okay, so it IS a four-letter word, but you know what I mean). It is something that gives both men and women a feeling of accomplishment and also for some, it is their identity. It is something that is a blessing on us that we are able to use the gifts to produce or make something.
If we look at work in this manner, it is appropriate to conclude that if the end-result is what’s desired, then the hours you spend upon it shouldn’t matter. I cannot tell you how many times at the workplace I have found people chatting it up in the break room, the smoke area outside or by the coffee machine. How many people linger on after meetings for 10-15 minutes, catching up on the weekend or the ball game? There is time being wasted at the office but no one seems to mind, as long as you show up. If someone is accessible and is working from home, then what’s the problem?
Social media also blurs the lines between work and personal life. Millennials have grown up with social media and are often the first to know details about a new hire. This gives insight to how they wish to work. It is next to impossible to block out your personal life and not bring it to work, especially if there are big things going on that impact your work. The idea to have a workplace that accepts the fact that you have a vibrant life outside of work, that you CAN bring your laptop to the coffee shop and work there as well as the office, to know that when there is an important meeting, you will be present – but when there isn’t a mandate to be at the office, you might go and do some volunteer work… all those might be the new way to see how the office day might be changing.
In addition, work space has also changed. People don’t need large offices, or even desks. Many are choosing to share space where they plug in their computer and get to work. This is a generation that has grown up on the soccer and sports field. They are used to working in teams. They are okay with not having a corner office.
By taking a fresh look at the use of time during the weekday, we can actually invigorate the work day. The re-defined work day can actually go to after hours, into the night and even past midnight. Creativity and productivity don’t have to be limited to the office area and to the desk or cubicle. Instead of separating out our life from work, we can bring new approaches, new ideas and yes, life to work.