Generational differences are nothing new, so it’s not necessarily a surprise that a survey conducted by national real estate listings platform COMMERCIAL Café has found that there’s a generation gap in how people feel about work-life balance. Most notably, the survey found that, even though Gen Z and millennials clocked the least number of hours at the office, they reported feeling more dissatisfied with their work-life balance than Gen X and Baby Boomers. But work-life balance isn’t as simple as the number of hours you put in at the office, and these differences reveal just how much society’s view of work and 24/7 connectedness has changed over the years.
The survey went out nationwide and received 1,992 responses from U.S. employees across generations, according to the results, defining Baby Boomers as born in 1964 or earlier, Gen X as born between 1965 and 1979, millennials as born between 1980 and 1994, and Gen Z as born 1995 and later. Gen Z reported working 38 hours per week, millennials 42 hours per week, and Gen X and Baby Boomers 43 hours per week, according to the survey.
In terms of overtime, Baby Boomers put in the most overtime at 16 percent, followed by Gen X at 13 percent, while Gen Z put in the least overtime at 7 percent, followed by millennials at 11 percent. But Gen Z reported being the least satisfied with their work-life balance at 25 percent dissatisfied, followed by millennials at 18 percent, Gen X at 16 percent, and then Baby Boomers at 12 percent.
But the number of hours worked doesn’t necessarily mean younger generations are slackers. Millennials and Gen Z have a different approach to work than past generations, believing that productivity isn’t achieved in the number of hours you put in at the office but by the actual output of work you produce, according to ADP, a corporate payroll, HR, and tax service. ADP says that’s why workplace flexibility has become such a major factor in how younger generations select where they work.
And, according to The Telegraph, millennials are prioritizing work-life balance over even job security. In a survey of 1,000 people ages 17 to 23, one third said work-life balance was the most important factor when choosing a job, with pay coming in second, The Telegraph reports. Work culture was the third most important factor, says The Telegraph, and the length of their daily commute tied for fourth alongside long-term job security. That aligns with these latest survey results, which found that 53 percent of the millennial respondents would take a pay cut to get some more free time to spend with family and friends.
Gen Z and millennials also reported feeling the most tired or unrested when they wake up in the morning out of all the respondents, the survey said. It’s hard to say exactly why that is for sure, but both generations are working in a post-recession economy and are expected to be connected to their devices 24/7, with work emails and pings potentially coming in well past 5 p.m. Juggling all of that with a personal life can be overwhelming for anyone at the best of times.
Gen Z get a bad rap for demanding work flexibility, but there’s nothing wrong with changing the way the world looks at work. Just because one way worked for one generation doesn’t necessarily mean it works for another, and speaking for up your needs is never a bad thing.