Climb the Ladder

“It’s about the journey” — millennials and work-life integration

Robin Levine, founder of Scouted, has noticed a value shift in how the Millennial generation views work.

About previous generations, she said, “It used to be all about an end-goal. You’d do grunt work in a low-level job with the knowledge that it would pay off with promotions and more money in the end.”

But for Millennials, she said, “It’s about the journey. They care less about the end results. They want to enjoy the work itself.”

Levine’s observations are backed up by data. As I’ve written about before, the2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that millennials, more than previous generations, prioritize their overall wellbeing when evaluating their work satisfaction. In other words, they want to maximize their wellbeing on their work “journey,” not just the financial payoffs.


Wellbeing in a general sense is taking over the old paradigm of worker satisfaction: work-life balance. Over the past few years, work-life integration has become the buzzword. Work-life integration acknowledges the fact that, with blackberries and universal wifi and smart-watches and all of that, work time and personal time no longer have the strict boundaries “work-life balance” policies aimed to establish. People answer emails on the treadmill, make calls from the bathroom, organize their calendars in bed. Work is a part of life just as much as everything else is.

Companies need to acknowledge and embrace this work-life integration to maximize the employee wellbeing millennials require.

Think about it like this. Millennials evaluate work in a similar way to how we evaluate our romantic relationships and workout routines. If I want to get married and have kids eventually, but I don’t like the person I’m dating, I’m going to move on to someone else. If I want six pack abs, but I find my 4am crossfit class incredibly painful, I’m going to switch to another program (I got remarkable results from this video!)

In the same way, if I want to make a certain amount of money, and become successful in a certain field (blog writing, for example), but my employer expects me to make edits on drafts immediately, anytime they are suggested, even at 3am on a Sunday, I’m going to find a different employer.

The other part of this is that we have the internet now, so the “finding a different employer” step is easier than ever (and so is the finding another date and fitness program). A simple search on LinkedIn will show me an overwhelming amount of companies looking for blog writers.

Millennials want work to be a source of fulfillment, and they hold work to the same standard as everything else in their lives. That’s the inevitable result of work-life integration. So, instead of helping employees balance personal and work-lives, employers should find ways to make work fit into an integrated life. Let people work where and how they want, and let them set their own limits. Give them work that is meaningful. Let them know you care.

In the end, this will probably help with productivity. Stew Friedman, writing for his book and for Harvard Business Review, claims that many successful people — Sheryl Sandberg, Michelle Obama, Bruce Springsteen — have succeeded precisely because they don’t separate their lives into work and life, but integrate work into everything else.

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