Attention Managers: Work-life Integration a Must!

Author: Amy Romig on 06/04/2014

Soon, the largest part of the American workforce, and some of the most talented, will be the 20 and 30-year-old Millennials/Generation Y. In fact by 2020 40% of the total working population will be Gen Yers. It’s time for managers to recognize that Gen Yers won’t stick around if their needs for work-life integration are not met.

Notice I wrote “integration,” not “balance.” Employees, especially Gen Y employees, are looking for positions they feel coincide with their ideals and fit into their life. They want to believe in what they do and make a difference. They don’t want to balance work with life, they want to work collaboratively and integrate their work into their lives, because they are fulfilled by it. This is in high contrast to many Gen Xers and Baby Boomers who survived (and still do today) punching a clock, and living for the weekends. Some of those same Gen X and Baby Boomers are now managers who feel that Gen Y employees should go through the same “rank and file,” “punch clock,” and “earn stripes” experiences.

The difference is that many of these younger employees are filling roles that didn’t exist 5 to 10 years ago. It’s not uncommon to have a Social Media Specialist who is 3 years out of college and being referred to as an expert. Especially when that employee has embraced the position whole-heartedly, reading and learning constantly, working in a team environment, and replying to posts on the sites they maintain at all hours of day, without the slightest complaint. This is simply part of the work-life integration they enjoy.

And it’s important to note that Gen Y employees are not interested in having a “boss” or a “manager” like the Gen X and Boomers had, they want leaders who are mentors and collaborators.

So if you are a manager and member of the X or a Baby Boomer generation, try for a moment to set all of your preconceived notions of office conduct and employee expectations aside. Imagine a new future of employment where the environment is actually a place we want to work/live/exist. Imagine integrating some of your weekend fun into your daily routine and creating a place where happiness means healthiness and productivity. This is important, because according to a few new studies, happy employees really are more productive.

While corporate management often “poo-poos” office shenanigans as distraction and time wasted, the reverse is actually true. A moment of joy can promote a day’s worth of productivity. Here are some ways Wiredviews has helped to create an environment that meets the needs of our Gen Y employees. You may want to try some of these tactics to bring happiness into your workplace and instill work-life integration:

  • Start a work from home schedule. We are a mobile generation. If possible, give your employees a day or two a month to work from home. Our employees are constantly connected and accessible, just like they are here. But they love the freedom of working from their living rooms a couple days a month.
  • Be flexible. When you are accommodating, your employees will be too. If you recognize the need for employees to plan things like doctor and dental appointments during the day, or “early outs” for family plans, give them a quick approval. Not only do our employees show their appreciation by trying hard to schedule appointments at convenient times, but they are also accessible whenever we need them.
  • Plan for fun. Not only is it important to be spontaneous and break the silence every once in awhile with laughter. But make plans to be ridiculous as well. Whether it’s a smack-talking cook off (we do a Foodie Challenge several times a year), a holiday PJ party (always most fun with food and drink), a “mad hatter” or “silly sock” day (not yet a WiredViews event, but sounds fun), or a mini-golf getaway (also a cool idea)... Be creative and get goofy.
  • Stay connected. Get to know your employees. Invest your time in them. They will be open with you if you are with them. This is a generation that expects transparency; don’t limit them on the questions they can ask, or conversations about income and career path. WiredViews employees know that we are a company you can take at face value, and they are kept in the loop of all future plans. That’s how it should be.
  • Make time for play. A lot of high-tech companies have already recognized that getting employees up and away from their desks for a game of Ping-Pong, foosball, darts, etc. refreshes the body and the brain. It’s true!
  • Celebrate people. Don’t ignore birthdays and anniversaries. Coordinate lunches or treats. Don’t worry about the number of employees you have, this doesn’t have to be a company-paid event; WiredView’s employees are happy to chip in for a coworker’s birthday lunch or happy-hour drink. The camaraderie around these celebrations is priceless.

When an employee goes the extra mile, even if they think it is expected, or part of their job, say thank you! Send them home early on a Friday if they made a late-night deadline earlier in the week. Buy a lunch once in awhile. Give them a card. Even just the words “thank you,” “you did a great job” go a long way – as long as they know it’s genuine. And believe me, they will know.

When it comes down to it, changing the way we “manage” the younger generation will open our minds to the next generation – Generation Z – who are currently in college and will soon fill those roles we don’t yet know exist.

And when we accept and change our leadership styles to create an atmosphere of home and family, those lines between work and life get more and more blurry for all of the generations. The increased camaraderie will make us all excited to be a part of the team and eager to learn what it means to have a more integrated work-life.

What does a work-life integration look like at your job?

Do you think a work-life integration in necessary?