Just this afternoon, Danielle and I were discussing the short transition from Thanksgiving break to finals week. We pitied Elon students for not being able to fully enjoy their holiday break knowing that the semester would end shortly after returning. How awful that they were probably with family, still thinking about schoolwork! Then we realized that this is what our generation does every day. For the most part, we never stop thinking about what needs to be done (personal or professional) because we are always “plugged in”.
As natives of the Information Age, the millennial generation is always connected: to our smart phones, tablets, laptops, and social networks. Because of the constant connection to our personal lives, many students and young professionals thrive on fluidity. There is a new, innate need to be able to freely drift between text messages to friends and emails to instructors or supervisors. This no longer represents an out of whack work-life balance; it is the new normal.
The newest wave of professionals are no longer bogged down by answering emails after 5 p.m., it’s more draining for them to be forced to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day. This generational shift is no cause for panic; it is simply a change in work styles and the concept of balance. And since the use of technology has extended the average workday, it is no longer feasible to judge productivity by the number of hours spent in the office or classroom.
Sheryl Sandberg in her book, “Lean In” says that “framing the issue as ‘work-life balance’ – as if the two were diametrically opposed – practically ensures work will lose out” because, “who would ever choose work over life?” And one Forbes contributor suggests that we move from work-life balance to work life energy by “thinking about ways we can be fully energized and creative for all of our life.” This means posing one very important question to every college student and new professional before they settle into any new role:
What does work look like for you?
(More from “Forget Work Life Balance – 7 Paradigm Shifts for the New 24/7 Normal” here. )