Business

The myth of ‘work-life balance’ is a generational illusion

The term work-life balance did not come into common use until 1986. While still in use, it is no longer relevant to today’s circumstances. But before redefining, we need to first consider the evolution of work and work.

After World War II, soldiers returned home to a “revived” United States. Over the next 30 years, the United States expanded economically. This period is known as the Dai Compression period: economic expansion coupled with social welfare initiatives, and strong, healthy unions leveled wage disparities, pulling people toward the middle. save.

When a young person enters the workplace, they have become “The People of the Company”, their career has culminated with a pension after many years of work. It is an unwritten contract between an employer and an employee.

You are incapable of mulling over the concept of work-life balance. It will be taken as a sign that you are not serious about your work and not committed to the organization.

Gen X and the Beginning of the Transactional Workplace

Things started to change in the mid 70’s. That was the beginning of the end of the covenant. As children, Gen Xers witnessed the downsizing and “right sizing” their parents had to endure.

Many people have taken the lesson to heart and, as adults, know that they cannot rely on a single company to take care of them. Instead of selling their skills to legacy companies, they used their expertise to start their own companies, which gave rise to the dot-com boom.

Dot-com workplaces are often less formal, more egalitarian, and experimental. Smart young people have found new ways to leverage technology to reimagine how work – and what the workplace – should look like. Work-life balance needs that workers could not by convention were first fulfilled by Generation X entrepreneurs.

Millennials move the needle

Gen Xers recognize the difficulty of balancing work and personal life, while still expecting to be successful in their careers. Work still has to come first. The best they can do is build a workplace that is flexible enough to allow for changing priorities and needs in one’s personal life.

Millennial thinking is different. It can be described as the integration between work and life. This also should not be confused with balance. Millennials don’t do a better job balancing their personal life with work than Gen Xers. Instead, they worked to integrate work into their personal lives, tearing down walls between professional and personal.

Many Millennials are making careers in the gig economy and pursuing part-time work or flexible work arrangements. This is sometimes not necessary, but for others it is an elective lifestyle choice. Furthermore, they are taking on multiple roles to explore different avenues to pursue their goals.

Millennial knowledge workers have even more mobile skill sets than their Gen X predecessors. They have more leverage in the trading labor market than any previous generation. In a sense, they were “natives” trading, while those who came before were transactional “immigrants” who had to adapt to the new labor market.

Generation Z and future work-life choices

While the Gen Z identity is still evolving, there seems to be a continuum of many trends observed with Millennials. Like Millennials, they never knew the unbroken covenant and never expected their owners to take care of them for life. However, they also understand that the social safety net is in a precarious position. Not only may Gen Zers not expect a pension, but they also can’t be sure that Medicare and Social Security will be there when they retire.

This practical and discreet outlook colors how Gen Zers fit into work in their lives. They are moving beyond the work-life combination and pursuing what I call work-life options. They take job security very seriously and like the Millennial team, they are very interested in making a career with companies that provide career growth and development.

They use their spare time to pursue hobbies that could one day turn into careers. Generation Z, unlike Millennials, do not pursue many jobs to achieve their passion or find their purpose. They are pursuing steady careers while nurturing side projects that could one day become a source of income. They are often described as “side hustles”. Their aspirations turn to reality.

A retired legend

So will the concept of work-life balance continue to evolve? Maybe. Unless workers get what they really want: autonomy and control over their lives so they can make meaningful decisions about the work they do, how it gets done, and how it gets there. proficiency to do the job well.

If companies implement these requirements and understand and respect employee motivation, work-life balance will cease to be a battle between work and rest of life. It was never really like that. Workers just want the best fit, inclusion, balance — whatever you want to use — functioning in their lives.

The dichotomy between work and life is always misleading. We need to move beyond the notion that work is simply something we do for paychecks, and that “life” is just a fleeting regret between showing up at the office. Work, as it appeals to us, is life affirmation

Chris DeSantis is an independent organizational behavior practitioner, speaker, podcaster, and author Why I Find You Annoying: Generational Friction Navigating at Work.

Opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary are those of their authors only and do not reflect the views and beliefs of Luck.

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