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People playing chess whilst working, work-life balance

The art of finding the work-life balance

The topic of a work–life – balance has been discussed for many years by many different work forces. It became a recognized talking point when Generation X began entering the workplace in the 90’s.

Generation X (GenXer’s) were born between the 1960’s- 1980’s. They are described as being- highly educated, active, balanced, happy and family oriented- a stark contrast to the previous generation. As the genXer’s are less interested in monetary values, and more interested in achieving a life balance, businesses had to change their strategy in attract and retain employee’s.

As we enter the 21st century we see newer generations entering the office space, the Millennials all with increasing requirements of a work- life balance. The Millennials are the generation born during or after the general introduction of digital technology, in the last decades of the 20th century, as they have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers and technology. They are accustomed to getting work done in a variety of environments — not simply sitting at their desks. They place a high value on work-life balance.

Generation Z’s were born in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This generation doesn’t know a world without sleek laptops, smartphones, and the ability to connect with people globally via online communities. GenZ-ers are tech-savvy, vocal, and adaptable. But whilst they have spent a significant amount of time online, it means they struggle to develop strong interpersonal skills, use appropriate tone or body language. They’re noticeably different from previous generations and they’re bound to drive changes in corporate culture. With technology evolving rapidly from fax machines to remote access, the pace of work is also increasing, we seem to all be working faster and not smarter as originally planned. Now with the Generation Z entering the work zone there is strong evidence that the work-life balance was never achieved, and possibly never will be.

What the Research Says:

A study by Donna Haeger and Tony Lingham suggests that work and life are instead becoming fused.

In the article, “A Trend Toward Work-Life Fusion: A Multi-Generational Shift in Technology Use at Work,”  Haeger and Lingham write “Our study has demonstrated that use and advancements in technology will invariably affect how we manage both work and life domains. Our findings uncover a trend toward ‘Work-Life Fusion,’ which is salient and significant not only to the Millennials, but also to GenXers as they transition toward this shift.”

The authors found that the younger generations were particularly confused with when work ends and their life begin. This is due to the immediate access of social media platforms, increasing overtime and instant technology which sees them work over their expected hours. While Haeger and Lingham’s findings indicate that some employees expect many of the elements of work-life fusion in the workplace (because it’s all they’ve ever known), other employees learn to adapt to this work balance. The study suggests that rather than being a generational concern, nowadays workers of any generation adapt to new technology both in business and personal life.

The evaluation is that the future workplace will largely incorporate work and personal life. This could potentially cause implications for HR and in specific learning and development teams and their strategies and methods undertaken

Those of us who are responsible for managing learning and development now need to implement new methods to meet the needs of a work-life balance work space.

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