Gen Y Women Prioritize Work Life Balance Even If They Don’t Have The “Traditional” Life Part

According to a new study by the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation (BPW) and Huffington Post Women, work-life balance is equally important to Gen Y women regardless of whether or not they have children. Survey results found that the presence of children did not impact the level of importance that Gen Y women placed on work-life balance.  This is a contrasting image to a lot of literature which shows Millenial women as childless and completely career-focused. But the work-life balance is an issue of importance and concern across various categories of women. Survey results indicate that Gen Y women have a broader understanding of family. Almost three-quarters (74%) of Gen Y women report that family is very important, and 69% of women with-out children report it as very important. Women hold various positions within families – granddaughter, daughter, sister, aunt, mother, spouse and partner. Family responsibilities extend beyond parent-child relationships. These women also have responsibilities and interests outside of work and home, even if they don’t have children.  Gen Y women report more than two aspects of life as important. In addition to work and family, Gen Y women report that the following aspects of life are also important: hobbies (55%), friends (44%), exercise (43%), and volunteering (36%).

Because work-life balance policies and programs often preference workers with children, formal or informal rules may preclude Gen Y women without children from work-life balance programs. But companies need to try not to do that as the study has shown that these women highly prioritize the life part of the work life balance. According to another study from BPW women expect their work to be satisfying in at least two ways: They anticipate enjoying their work–rather than surviving through the day –and count on contributing to something bigger than themselves. “We’ve been welcomed into the workplace, but the structure hasn’t changed. The rules haven’t changed.”  Respondents cite their desire for autonomy and control over their work, a factor which leads them to loathe arbitrary timetables and rules. Why should these women get in trouble for being ten minutes late to work if they are the top performer in their department?

By blending a generation that has never really known, or even witnessed, hardship and believes it can have it all and is not embarrassed to ask for it with one that has experienced all those things is inevitably going to lead to some conflict. But how do you manage that kind of tension? Companies that expect to compete in even the very near future must recognize these new attitudes among their workers. They must open themselves up to revisiting assumptions about which workers are appropriate for which roles and to rethinking the ways in which they hire, motivate, and retain employees. According to Tamara Erickson and Bob Morison of The Concours Group, a Kingwood, Texas-based consulting company these are the proper ways to manage Generation Y:

As we have seen from the research, younger workers will get the work done but they feel less loyalty to institutions (Generation Yers don’t expect to stay in a job, or even a career, for too long.) They also want responsibility and expect to have input right away, whereas older workers expect people to earn their way up. Younger workers aren’t afraid to make decisions, and if you can create a strong social fabric at work, you can leverage their network-centric attitudes.

“One should rapidly place younger workers into responsible roles to get the most out of these workers before they move on. And because the relationship between these workers and their immediate managers is more significant than their relationship to the larger organization, companies need to make retention more of a core responsibility for managers at all levels of the organization. Anticipate that these younger workers will leave (for education, travel, or another job), and make it easy for them to return when it is in the interest of both parties.”

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