The key to achieving work life balance may lie in millennials

In a few years, millennials will dominate the workforce and employers will have to create workplaces that are both supportive and highly productive.
Woman cruising on longboard at huge creative office space, while holding tablet (Getty Images)

In a few years, millennials will dominate the workforce and employers will have to create workplaces that are both supportive and highly productive according to Nora Spinks, the chief executive officer of the Vanier Institute of the Family. Spinks has spent years researching the balance between work and family time.

She told Cross Country Checkup guest host Susan McReynolds the newest generation of workers want employers to recognize that sometimes family comes first and that employees need flexibility and autonomy to complete their jobs.

You can listen to the full conversation here:

Is work life balance a myth?

The notion of work life balance

I think it really depends on the different age groups. [Many] millennials don't separate work and family life. This isn't a new issue, but the way we're resolving it is very new—by using technology in a different way.

There are a lot of people who have precarious work and no control. They only get paid if they're clocked in or clocked out and the idea of being able to take time off is very foreign. We are also seeing fathers, especially new dads, who are experiencing more work life imbalance than ever before because they're more actively involved in household management and childcare. They don't have the same kind of role models that a lot of today's young women have.

What employees want and need to do well

Employers should recognize, respect, and honor the fact employees have a life outside of work and sometimes that life requires more attention. Employees need two things: flexibility and autonomy with the how, where, and when work gets done. They need access to community supports and resources whether it's childcare, healthcare, home care, or palliative care. Those are the kinds of things they need to achieve a high quality of life which balances work, family responsibilities, and active membership in their communities.

The next generation of workers

It's going to be an employee's market. They'll be able to start articulating what they need and what they want. The millennials are the first generation who experienced their parents attempting to balance work and family in the 80's and 90's. They saw the challenges and they don't want that same kind of life. They don't want to burn out. They don't want to live their life on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. They don't want to be away from their kids for a long period of time and they do want to spend time in their community.

They want to volunteer. They want to take care of their health and wellbeing and they want to have a good job as well. With this brand new generation coming into the paid labor force with that unique experience—it's going to change the conversation. It's going to change the reality. It's going to [increase] the motivation [of] employers and labor unions to create work environments that are supportive and respectful and productive and high performing at the same time.

Nora Spinks' and Susan McReynolds' comments have been edited and condensed. This online segment was prepared by Lisa Mathews.


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