If you research “healthy work-life balance tips” (or frankly any hot topic), you’ll see a line item in there about the millennial's view point. On this subject, research shows that millennials highly value work-life balance, and some offer they need it the most yet struggle hardest to find it.
Do they really?
I am lucky to have a young millennial sister who is early in her bright career and whom I call upon to confirm or deny allegations concerning millennials and their unshakeable need to find work-life balance. I thought Natalie would say she doesn’t have it as she works full days in supply chain for a major trucking company while balancing a new marriage, new mortgage, and a fur baby can induce the need for stress management. That, and the experts say she’s struggling to find it.
I, on the other hand, have been lucky to work in various ways through different life cycles of my career balanced with raising three boys. I have had the long commutes, heavy travel and virtual work in several time zones - or a mixture of any and all, depending on the week. I can play the role of the wise older, GenX sister and explain how there’s no such thing as work-life balance - there’s just balance. When I am working, I need to be tunnel-vision and work. When I am home, I need to put the phone down and listen to my boys tell me their school project they’ve known about for three weeks is due tomorrow, and they need imported materials. Something like that.
I asked Natalie if she has work-life balance and, surprisingly, she said she does. What I’ve spent 16 years searching for, she has found in one. The way she goes about it, though, is a completely different approach. Rather than tunnel-visioning on work or home, she makes sure every day is a delicate weave of both. Natalie explained:
Work-life balance includes work. There needs to be a balance of work and play while we’re working. This can include team lunches, 10-minute breaks, walking around outside on a sunny day - stuff to break up our day to make us feel like we have a life at work and not just at home. We want to build friendships at work that move to our personal life. In the end, there’s not too much of work-life because it’s just life and we want to enjoy our life during most times of the day, not just 5-10pm on weeknights after you leave the office.
Before one assumes these sunshine walkers with their BFFs aren’t adding value, they are. People want to enjoy their whole day, including work hours. The research indicates that engaged employees are more productive and increase your return on payroll. In fact, Natalie recently confirmed more research about how millennials are fearless in their work and highly creative about how to get things done. Natalie’s take?
Millennials don’t care for hierarchy - if they want something, they want it as quickly as possible with the least cost. In my work in supply chain, one of our carriers increased price by changing its interline partner. We hit a block when negotiating a lower rate. I called the Sales Executive from the interline company and negotiated directly with him to lower our costs, which saved the company over $100K. It was an easy solution by cutting across some traditional dotted line and using my networking skills.
Perhaps millennials also strike more life balance in challenging the status quo on the way the work traditionally gets done to allow more time for life balance. Gallup supports Natalie’s desire to ‘build friendships at work’ by asking on their surveys if you have a best friend at work. It turns out, engaged employees do have best friends at work.
After considering the research and contemplating our own experiences in this thing called work-life balance - the following 9 items are agreed upon strategies that resonate to both my millennial and me in finding ‘just life.’
1. Know your purpose and how it fits within the company’s purpose. Would your 10-year old self be proud of what you do today? We all want to feel like we’re part of something important and will find balance in spending your time at work on things that feed your soul. When we are confident in what we’re doing, we feel more balance because we are zapping fewer hours procrastinating or psyching ourselves up for something we don’t believe in.
2. Find your social support and a work BFF. Shawn Anchor in The Big Potential says, “...success is not just about how creative or smart or driven you are, but how well you are able to connect with, contribute to, and benefit from the ecosystem of people around you. It isn’t just how highly rated your college or workplace is, but how well you fit in there. It isn’t just how many points you score, but how well you compliment the skills of the team. ...if we can just work harder, faster, and smarter...it’s not faster alone; it’s better together.”
Finding your social, cross-functional support work helps you achieve goals faster. Focusing on how you uniquely contribute to the success of the team while not plodding alone starts tipping the balance scale more evenly while feeding your purpose.
3. Don’t wait for perfect. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love said,
“Perfection is the death of all good things, perfection is the death of pleasure, it’s the death of productivity, it’s the death of efficiency, it’s the death of joy.”
If you’re feeling like you’re not as productive or efficient in your life balance, perhaps it’s because you’re waiting until something is perfect before you move on to the next thing. Pretty soon, you’ve eaten into your life’s balance with a stack of unfinished and imperfect things, which feels pretty lousy. Create a mindset of ‘good enough and can be adjusted’ or paint a realistic picture of success and try to have a better sense of the extra hours aren't helping your productivity.
4. Encourage opportunities for self-care. When we are taking care of our health and minds first, we can show up at our best selves to work. At Rhythm Systems, we are encouraged to set personal goals towards what we want to accomplish in our lives and then get accountability partners to encourage us to take the time to be our best selves. Maybe it’s keeping smart with reading, having a consistent exercise routine or spending time on your mental health. Opening up about these KPIs also builds stronger bonds at work because you are opening the door more into who we are on a personal level.
5. Make sleep a priority. I say this as our 90-pound Labrador breathes enthusiastically (snores) while our 8-week old puppy cries in his crate. Hey, I realize at this very moment how important sleep is and how much easier.these.words.would.be.if.I.could.get.more. Start tracking the sleep you get today and come up with one thing each week to try to get more of it. Find what works for you that may not be the same 3 tips we all hear (because if I hear one more time to turn our screens off an hour before bed, I will throw my phone at captain obvious). Have you tried sleep music with delta waves yet? No? Well, there you go - your next thing to try.
6. Say yes to help. If you consistently feel as though you can’t focus enough or have spent a whirlwind of a day with little to show for it, then it’s time to figure out ways through help with other people or apps to offload on things you can. Nowadays you can order just about anything to be outsourced or delivered to give you back time where it counts. Chances are, your unbalanced self is getting in your own way. If you are suffering alone, you are not helpful to anyone and there are ways to get help. Your help may even be in the way of a coach to be more successful at what you do - we could all use a coach to help reduce stress and maintain focus.
7. Focus on one thing. Have a daily “Successful If…” If your day goes sideways, what is the one important thing you have to get done? Team Daily Huddles foster this by having everyone share a victory and priority. It’s amazing how simply sharing your top thing to tackle today will actually move you into execution. Accountability is your balance friend to make every moment count. You can't create more time, so manage your time with purpose and focus on your long term goals - not just the short term.
8. Choose to be positive. Shawn Anchor in The Happiness Advantage explains our brain is 31% more productive when positive. He suggests writing each day 3 new things we are grateful for as a start. Choosing to be positive and starting each day envisioning how you’ll end the day with success will give you a 31% chance of success.
9. Stay curious. When you stay curious, you are open to new ideas and creative ways to tackle what is in front of you. Natalie stays curious in how she can tackle her goals in non-conventional ways, and I stay curious in her perspectives in finding life’s balance after 16+ failed years of trying. My recent mindset is shifting and I am already a bit saner in ‘life.’
We would both be ‘curious’ as to what has helped you find ‘just life’...after you return from a walk in the sun. Remember, life doesn't start when you leave work so you can, and should, focus on making your time at work more enjoyable and productive. Also, don't forget to make time for some date nights from time to time to make sure that everyone stays happy.
Interested in learning more about Employee Engagement, please enjoy these articles written by the middle market experts:
The Power of Systems and People: Accountable Leaders and Teams
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