Ubiquitous connectivity, mobile technology, and living in a global economy have forced Millennials to trade work-life balance for work-life integration.
The blending of work and life has never been more apparent than in today's always-connected and always-on culture.
How Millennials View Work-Life Balance
Millennials aren't driven by the thought of working hard for the next 40 years and then retiring. Rather, they are driven by the idea of building a life and career that can withstand the continuous reinventions and pivots that their long-term careers in the 21st century will require.
Millennials are more interested in leveraging today's tech to integrate work and life versus just balancing them. The term "work-life balance" implies that work is separate from life, but in reality, it's all life. Forcing people to put work and life into separate boxes that never overlap is unrealistic in today's always-on world.
Millennials view work-life balance as being fully engaged with the task, activity, or people they are currently involved with. Work-life balance isn't necessarily about physical time and place, but it is about the state of mind and mental margin that Millennials experience. (Some Millennials may need help from leaders to turn off the distractions to ensure they can be fully present in order to maximize a balance.)
Millennials want work-life balance to be fluid, free, and flexible to prioritize whatever (work or life) is most important that day. To them, work-life balance means not having rigid boundaries between work and life. A more fluid approach ensures less stress.
Millennials want all aspects of their professional and personal lives to receive the same level of attention, priority, and progress. They want a healthy mix of achieving professional goals and time to pursue personal goals. A sense of freedom and flexibility to be fulfilled and supported in both their personal and professional endeavors is critical. An example might be traveling for work and then staying an extra day to explore the area (while remaining available to be reached for work-related items that come up)--or doing what needs to be done at work and then attending a child's school function later that day.
To Millennials, work-life balance is about what matters most to them as individuals and taking the steps to achieve it.
At 21Mill.com (a micro-learning platform to help Millennials perform better at work), my business partner and fellow Millennial, Steven Cohen, has a powerful analogy for how Millennials should view work-life balance:
Stop thinking your life needs to be "balanced." Balance implies things need to be of equal relation in order to reach success. I believe your life from birth to death should be thought of as a symphony. A great symphony is played with many different types of instruments and each played at different levels of intensity at different times during the performance. Sometimes you need to play the drums really hard or a flute really soft. Your commitments, just like instruments in a symphony, need to be adjusted to whatever is most important at that point in time. The goal is not to have work-life balance. It is to have work-life harmony.
Dan Thurmon, author of Off Balance on Purpose: Embrace Uncertainty and Create a Life You Love, says, "The perpetual quest for balance ends up limiting growth, progress, and the quality of life." Thurmon suggests that perfect balance is unachievable and, upon closer inspection, undesirable. We must be open to forcing ourselves off balance on purpose when we need to give an area of life more attention.
Want more insights like these? Check out Ryan's latest book, The Millennial Manual: The Complete How-To Guide to Manage, Develop, and Engage Millennials at Work.