The Realities of Work-Life Balance: What Millennials Need to Know

Credit: Reuters

It’s the end of another summer, and a new set of workers are getting ready to enter the workforce. Again, they are millennials. After a long break from studies, seemingly endless vacations, fine sunny weather, offshore volunteerism and a million hours of good rest, millennials are getting back to work, and interestingly, this time, not school work but real work, real life.

If you are lucky to land a job with a Fortune 500 or a Vault 50, you are indeed lucky; as only one out of 100s of your colleagues can pride themselves with such an amazing opportunity. You deserve all the excitement in the world, and the ceaseless congratulatory messages that keep coming from family, friends and fans. But then on the flip side, you are likely to be anxious; at least anxious over first “enduring” impression and how you are going to fit into the actual culture, not the well-crafted one on the company’s website — especially, if you did not have the privilege of having a prior internship. Perhaps, more alarmingly, this anxiety is fuelled by worry over how you are going to cope with the intense pressure, excessive long hours and usual work-weekends. You remember you nailed the interviews by claiming you work like hell and that even drives you nuts!

The good bad news is that the concerns of work-life balance is not something only Fortune 500-kids worry about; every work-ready millennial is in the same shoes. That makes it necessary for us to analyse the realities of work-life balance and to have the right mindset.

Ill-Assumptions You Should Do Away With:

  • Work-life balance is about permanent 40hour-workweeks: That’s simply unrealistic! Except for “lazy” state-owned organisations, not many companies can promise that luxury. Oftentimes, excellence would require you to exceed the 8 am to 5 pm standard work-time, and that should be fine.
  • You should have every weekend to yourself: Again, you won’t have every weekend to yourself if your team or your supervisor doesn’t. The earlier you ingrained that the better.
  • Family life is about being home by 6 pm and leaving by 7 am: More than pondering over what can work today, arguably, you are concerned about what will work for life. You are considering quitting after 2 years or more sustainable options. Go 7, leave 6 is simply not one of them!
  • Awesome summer vacations are non-negotiable: Yes, there will always be summer, but not summer vacations. If there are, definitely not lengthy enough in your foremost years.

Remedies:

You won’t work like hell, but it won’t be like heaven! Having the right assumptions and its corollary, the right attitude — will help lessen the weight and make it less enduring. Here is a bunch of those:

  • Focus on the bigger picture: Having a long term perspective about your career will make the demands of work more endurable. Instead of paying attention to what you’ll lose in the foremost years, focus on what you want to achieve or who you can become after a number of years. Being driven by purpose makes a sacrifice look less like it.
  • Get your assumptions right: Assumptions influence expectations, so know your industry. Accept the inherent challenges — what economist call the sunk cost. Talk to those who have holistic success in the industry and learn from their secrets. Talk also to those who admit that they were so engrossed in the adventure of work-life that they lost sight of their personal joys, family and other commitments — and let them share their failures with you.
A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer. — Bruce Lee

Seek the right mentors and report to them about how you are coping with work and life outside of work.

  • Do something you’re passionate about: That is if you are yet to apply to these companies. In that case, Mark Twain may be right,
“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

If you’ve already accepted the offer, it’s almost too late. You’d rather follow the first two advice than to worry all about when to move on. In my experience, people who are always concerned about when to move on from anything, whether assignments, relationships or tasks — do neither make the most from nor get the most out of those experiences. When it’s time to move on, just do, but when it’s not, don’t bother. Put on the right attitude and go to work.

Free weekend, long vacations and short office hours are earned — earned by hard work during those hours.

I hope this helps. All the best!