Are you doing your best efforts to attract and retain top talent? Recent research reveals that 60% of younger employees want their “ideal employer” to support a healthy work-life balance. Considering that Millennials and Gen Zers are poised to become the major demographic in workplaces, prioritizing work-life balance is imperative to your business’s success.
What is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance is about achieving the right balance between personal and professional aspects of life.
The concept of ‘giving workers a break’ can be traced to the 1800s, when unions and industrialists realized that workers required a day off. Later, a day’s break turned into a two-day ‘weekend.’ However, this was initiated before the internet was even created, meaning workers were able to leave work once it’s time to go home.
Recent technological advances have led to an ‘always on’ work culture. Remote working technology and smartphones make it harder for people ‘switch off’ completely from work and genuinely rest.
Achieving a good work-life balance is a challenge employees face in many countries. For instance, in Australia, 13% of employees put in very long hours, meaning 50 hours or more a week. The optimal number of work hours is around 38 – 42 hours a week, however, in Singapore, according to the Work-Life Balance Index, people work 44.6 hours on average per week, while 28% work for more than 48 hours.
Evidence shows long work hours affect physical and mental health, increase stress, and jeopardize safety. While a healthy balance is desired by all age groups, the Millennials and Gen Z give top priority to work-life balance when choosing a job. Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996, while those born after 1997 till 2012 are called Generation Z (or Gen Z).
Why Do Gen-Z And Millennial Workers Seek Better Work-Life Balance Support?
According to a recent study by PwC, work-life balance is important for 95% of Millennials while being ‘very important’ for 70% of this generation. Why do they value work-life balance so much? Here are some reasons:
They are always working: According to a study, 42% of workers stay connected with work even while on vacation. Millennials are the generation that tends to work during off-hours. Thanks to their familiarity with technology, they find it easy to blend work and personal life. For instance, checking work e-mail in the morning while still in bed or shopping online at work. While this comes naturally to them, they want more flexible opportunities that allow them to blend work and life.
They define success in a different way: Millennials and Gen Zers do not equate owning tangible assets or getting ahead in their corporate career with success. Success no longer means an ‘ always on’ culture or working long hours. According to a Deloitte survey, 16.8% of these workers prioritize work-life balance when evaluating career opportunities, while 11% seek flexibility in terms of flexible work hours and remote working. For these workers, success is all about gaining control over where, when, and how they work as well as accumulating interesting life experiences. A healthy work-life balance helps them achieve these goals.
Family demands: According to EY research, about 30% of Millennials state managing their family, personal responsibilities, and work is becoming more difficult. For many Millennial managers, the work hours increase at a time when they start families or move into managerial roles. This means that for Gen Zers and Millennials, the demands of work tend to increase right when they are buying homes, marrying, and having children.
While these trends are not new, the COVID-19 pandemic added another layer of complexity to work-life balance.
What Does Work-Life Balance Look Like Under Covid-19?
The pandemic accelerated the move to online working settings almost overnight. With COVID-19 blurring the boundaries between work and personal, many workers experienced burnout.
Yet, for business leaders, the impact of COVID-19 was positive. In a survey conducted in Singapore, 72% of C-suite leaders and directors said the pandemic improved their work-life balance. However, only 25% of workers said the pandemic improved their work-life balance. While 31% of employees said their work-life balance had worsened because of the pandemic, 44% felt there was no impact on their work-life balance.
Working remotely for many employees during the pandemic did not necessarily result in reduced work hours. In Australia, remote workers reported increased workloads and work pressure during the pandemic. While many workers were not happy with their work-life balance despite remote work, others felt a negative work culture that gives no respect to work-life balance impacted their mental health.
What Can HR Leaders Do to Meet the Expectations of Gen-Zers and Millennials?
The starting point is to understand and respect work-life balance.
Focus on employee well-being: Seven out of ten employees in a survey said they want employers to take new initiatives to support their mental health and wellbeing, including:
- Mandatory leave for mental health.
- Mental health programmes.
- More conversations on mental health from senior leadership.
- Employee assistance programmes.
Give employees control over their working structure: Flexibility regarding working hours is one of the most important things Millennials and Gen Zers value. They also feel most comfortable when they can decide their working structure.
Foster collaboration: While flexible hours and remote work opportunities are important, Millennials and Gen Zers also value social connections. Remote work can create a sense of isolation. Provide a work environment where teams can collaborate, interact and receive help and feedback from co-workers to boost job satisfaction.
Hire the right people: A negative work culture has a serious impact on all aspects of work and can hurt employee motivation, engagement, and productivity. One way to ensure a positive work culture is to hire the right people for the right job.
At Links International, we offer curated recruitment services to cater to your business needs. With over two decades of experience recruiting in Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific, we find the best talent that fits right into your work culture. Contact us to know more about our recruitment services.
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