Millennials in the workplace

Millennials are those born between 1980 and 1997. According to statistics, this generation in a few years will be the largest part of the global workforce.


When I started my bachelor studies, some Millennials, born earlier than me, were already working. Thus, there was already some information about Millennials in the workplace. And in my understanding, it was really positive.


At that time (approximately 10 years ago), what I knew about Millennials was:

1) They value sense of meaning much more than the high salary;

2) They are looking for flexibility and good work-life balance;

3) Personal development opportunities are one of key criteria when searching for a job;

4) Regular feedback at work for them is crucial.


Today I still can easily find articles saying that millennials want to change 8-5 mindset and also are not willing to commit to work long in one company.


I have personal working experience in a corporation (in 2 counties) and in a small company. At the moment, I live in a country, which is a financial center for many investment funds and private banking, and has the highest GDP per capita in Europe (2020, Eurostat). And everywhere I saw a completely different reality that it is said in those articles.


I see Millennials working 50-70 hours per week including weekends. I see them full of stress and anxiety. I hear about their health problems. I see them exhausted. I hear about their loneliness/relationship problems. I hear about their plans to find new jobs, but actually I see them stuck with no time and energy to change something.


I see young people with many interesting dreams, but spending their life in big offices, usually from dark till dark. And if I talk to them, from the majority of them I hear how disappointed they are about their life.


Being a Millennial, having this working experience myself and being really interested in human behavior, I was thinking and searching for the explanation quite long.


And I came up with these 2 points:


1) Millennials is a generation with so much potential, but so many insecurities


Generations before valued stability and security, as they were born slightly after the 2WW. They worked hard and were scared for changes. With this mindset and at the same time - in a fastly developing world - they raised kids - now already adults - Millennials. This fact cannot be avoided when speaking about the mindset of Millennials - they came to work in a very dynamic market with a quite conservative mindset.


Another important factor - the Financial crisis of 2008, which actually has also a lot to do with the mindset of Millennials as the big part of them were graduating from high schools or universities and were entering the market at this time. Great Recession caused exceptionally high levels of unemployment among young people. Which again, hardly affected this generation - they had to face huge competition and prove that they are good enough in order to be hired.


Combining these 2 factors, it seems that we have a generation, which is trying to adapt to dynamics of the world while dealing with insecurities. It might be that for this reason Millennials believe that their job is not just a career, but instead is a part of their life.    


So, I probably won't surprise you, sharing results of one survey by Project: Time Off and GfK, published a few years ago. According to this survey, Millennials are actually more likely to see themselves — proudly — as “work martyrs”.


They are much more likely to agree with four statements they used to assess work martyrdom:

  • “No one else at my company can do the work while I’m away.”
  • “I want to show complete dedication to my company and job.”
  • “I don’t want others to think I am replaceable.”
  • “I feel guilty for using my paid time off.”


2) Technologies have really a lot to do here. Thanks to the ability to be connected and reachable 24/7, millennials live the reality that something "urgent" comes more and more often. This gives a lot of pressure on young professionals. Surveys show that some Millennials are working during their vacation, when they are on a sick leave, even when sitting in the toilet.


Basically, what happened is that Millennials lost a separating line between work and personal life. And as technologies and ability to be always connected took its advantage, the part of work life became much bigger compared to private life.


Also, social media is forming mindsets of Millennials. They have access to lots of useful information, but they also can see the "perfect life" of others. This of course results in the fear of not having a career and not being as good as others. These high expectations set by social media make Millennials work even harder to be "good enough".


I even found a specific term - "Hustle culture", which is the societal standard that you can only succeed by exerting yourself at maximum capacity professionally.


Few quotes from "Psychology today" article:

"The toil glamour of the hustle culture extols overworking and burnout and signals you're a hard, dedicated employee. <...> If you’ve fallen prey to the hustle culture, you have bought into the idea that it’s cool to be “always-on” and to push yourself to the max each of the 1,440 minutes of the day. You boast about no breaks. No leisure. No weekends off. No vacations. No sleep or exercise and practicing “gobble, gulp, and go” or skipping meals altogether."


And to confirm these words - #hustle was already used 27M times on Instagram.


There is one more aspect relating to technologies - according to one research 30% Millennials have reported always or often feeling lonely while 27% say they have no close friends (published by Forbes, 2019). The study found a strong correlation between increased time spent on social media and decreased well-being. And this can also be related to why Millennials work so much.


All these results not only in workaholism, but also in anxieties. Being always between screens, constantly checking social media, multi-tasking and facing huge pressure, Millennials became the most anxious generation in history.


Moreover, Millennials are less healthy than the generations before them were at the same age. And this of course is relating to intensive lifestyle, crazy working hours and lack of physical activities. Recently the World Health Organization has even classified burnout as a diagnosable condition.


So, even Millennials are the most educated generation with more rights, freedoms and opportunities than ever, they struggle to find ways how to benefit from it. Maybe the world is too dynamic, maybe the pressure is too strong, but Millennials did not become dream generation.


Millennials were about to free up the workforce after previous generations, but it seems that the world needs to wait for the next generation and expect that this will bring more positive changes.


To be a hardworker is not bad, but to lose control over your life and your health is not the solution.