Did the Recession Wake Gen Y from Their Work-Life Balance Dream?

work-lifeWhen the first members of Gen Y began to graduate and join the workforce a few years ago, commentary stirred about the differences between generations of workers. One perception of young professionals was repeated again and again: teens and 20-somethings were crazy for work-life balance.

Reports that this was a work-to-live generation rather than the other way around came thick and fast on both sides of the Atlantic. As USA Today declared way back in 2005:

“…unlike boomers who tend to put a high priority on career, today’s youngest workers are more interested in making their jobs accommodate their family and personal lives. They want jobs with flexibility, telecommuting options and the ability to go part time or leave the workforce temporarily when children are in the picture.”

British newspaper The Guardian agreed:

“Having watched with horror as their parents worked punishing hours in their scramble for money and status. Now… they have different priorities. They care less about salaries, and more about flexible working, time to travel and a better work-life balance.”

Now that the economic gloom has persisted for several years, are young careerists finally being forced to change their tune when it comes to work-life balance?

In one way, it’s perfectly natural that the most unemployed generation would lower its expectations in the face of the worst economic picture in decades. But once you’ve spent years dreaming of something better…

Can you really go back to being jailed in an office from nine to five without generating plenty of productivity killing resentment?

It’s a question with no simple or singular answer. As much as we seem to want to lump Gen Y into one composite person, this is a highly personal – individual – decision.

Some have indeed become workaholics like those from generations that preceded them. For some workers, the solution is designing their lives to be less expensive and allow more freedom from the constant need to earn (no New York City for these types, hello, Detroit);  choosing to spend less to work less might be the answer for folks with certain types of ambitions.

Others are blowing up traditional career paths and aiming to forge either their own gig-based, piecemeal career or start their own business. GenY is, after all, hugely interested in entrepreneurialism. This way, you may be always working, but at least you’re always working for yourself and have the flexibility to slip in some actual living during every down moment.

So what’s your solution: Despite the the new realities of the job market, are you trying to hang onto your pre-recession idea of work-life balance? Or have you fallen into the same trap your parents did?

Perhaps most important: As the majority generation in the workforce today, how do we set a new precedent for prioritizing work-life integration?






For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Brazen Careerist!



About the Author: Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London and is the author of BNET’s Entry-Level Rebel column.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.


Image courtesy of say2inho.wordpress.com. Thank you!



This entry was posted in Gen Y and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.