How to Balance Your Company’s Work-Life Balance: A Look at What Different Generations of Employees Want and How to Give it to Them

January 24, 2019・5 mins read

By the year 2020, five generations will be in the workforce at the same time: traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X, millennials and, lastly, generation Z (also known as founders or post-millennials).

This raises many questions for employers, especially since the average traits of employees within each generation vary so greatly. Overwhelmingly, employers want to ensure they can hire and retain the best and brightest, and that often comes down to what the work/life balance is within the organization.

The challenge, however, for an employer with a cross-generational workforce is that what a baby boomer seeks as the ideal work/life balance may be the exact opposite of what generation Z desires or even what traditionalists need. Here, we’ll explore these competing ideals and look at how your business can balance it all for your employees.

Characteristics of the Generations:

Traditionalists: born between 1900 – 1945
Traditionalists are fiercely loyal to their job and the organization they work for. They have a strong commitment to teamwork and getting the job done. They appreciate their work teams meeting face-to-face and everyone playing their role through to completion. They also value respect from their peers and top-down leadership.

Baby boomers: born between 1946 - 1964
Also, known as the “me” generation, baby boomers were the first to declare a preference for work over personal life. They are driven and love challenges but want to make sure their hard work clearly benefits them. They are often very competitive, especially when it comes to advancing in their career.

Generation X: born between 1965 - 1980
Generation X is often looked at as the generation responsible for creating the concept of work/life balance in the first place. They are independent, welcome diversity, are constantly assessing how their careers are progressing and place a premium on learning opportunities.

Millennials: born between 1981-2000
Millennials tend to be confident and achievement-oriented. They want to work in an environment where differences are respected, people are judged by their contributions and where talent matters. They look for opportunities to grow and relish the idea of being “a part of something.”

Founders: born after 2000
Founders have been described as the post 9/11 generation. They always have their eyes open and are anxious and mindful about what the future will hold. Many do not know a time before social media and rely on it heavily in every avenue of their lives.

While there is some overlap between these brief descriptors of the generations, there are big divides as well. So how does any organization provide a work/life balance that is a fit for all employees? Here are three fairly easy ways your company can offer a work/life balance that can help you recruit and retain employees of all generations:

Work/life balance solution #1: telecommuting

Telecommuting, which is the ability of your workforce to work from their home or other location, has become one of the biggest workplace trends-especially among younger generations of employees. Not only does telecommuting allow for less travel time and more flexibility for employees, it can cut down costs for companies, making it possible for many businesses to minimize or even eliminate the need to provide office space. Telecommuting also aids in recruiting as it allows your business to cast a wider net, hiring employees in different cities – or even states or countries - than where you are located.

With guidelines in place regarding dates/times allowed for telecommuting and provisions guiding working from home, your organization may want to allow employees to telecommute one day a week, as-needed or even full-time if the position permits. This can be dependent on the needs of the employee. Allowing telecommuting expresses trust in employees, as well as provides the work flexibility so many desire.

Work/life balance solution #2: flexible scheduling

Along the lines of flexibility with telecommuting is offering flexible work hours. If it fits with the business needs of your company, employees often appreciate choosing the hours they work. This allows employees to tailor their schedule around their different generational needs – whether that be avoiding traffic, the needs of their family or their personal hobbies.  

Perhaps your millennial software development team would prefer to work late at night or on weekends, while your generation X’ers would prefer early morning hours during the week to coordinate with their family’s schedule. While not every company can do this, providing schedule flexibility can work throughout the generations.

Work/life balance solution #3: no-work hours

For many employees, the biggest benefit a company can implement in our technological society is the ability to shut off work. Email and cell phones make us all accessible all the time and when an employee is on paid time off or not at work, the last thing they want is work email staring them in the face.

Issuing company cell phones that employees can shut down on weekends is one way to achieve this but some companies (and even the country of France) have outright banned employees from checking emails on off hours. It sounds crazy but shutting off work during time off is one work/life balance aspect that all generations can appreciate.    

These tips can certainly work to attract and retain the best talent, no matter what generation they are.

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