Many of the traditionals, baby boomers, and generation X population are familiar with the idea of work / life balance. It has been the topic of many books, self-help guides, and even a buzz phrase for corporate culture, unfortunately that was during the 1990’s, and perhaps into the early 2000’s.
What is the work / life blend and how is it different from work / life balance?
Work / Life Blend
Millennials and gen Z (Gen 9/11, iGen) are much more interested in the work / life blend. This style of corporate culture suggests that your work is much more integrated with your life as compared to the concept that work and life are two very different aspects.
Starting in the late 1980’s some management styles began to measure performance based on the number of hours you put into your job on a daily or weekly basis. The bragging rights or social proof of performance was demonstrated by stating the number of hours worked as compared to productivity, efficiency, or outcomes. Even today you might find pockets of what I will call old school management philosophy that attempts to correlate a person’s value to the organization by the number of hours spent on the job.
Over the course of a few decades the medical (and psychiatric) communities began to suggest that many people needed more work / life balance. The millennials and gen Z population observed much of this trend through their parent’s steadfast commitment to work and building a better life only to still be working towards those same goals today, and so they have decided that there must be a better way.
The better way, or so it is believed, is more work / life blending.
Work and Lifestyle
Regardless of the generation, this concept doesn’t work for every occupation or for every person, nor should it. However, many employers can and probably should consider incorporating a culture related more towards a work / life blend. Especially those who insist they want millennial and gen Z representation but cannot understand why they experience so much employee turnover within these generations.
Examples of moving more towards a work / life blend might include the ability and permission to:
- have more flexible hours, recognizing that some of your work occurs outside of the workplace
- encourage processing email and interacting electronically after traditional hours
- connect performance measurement to results, not “clock” hours
- incorporate marketing and branding efforts with social “off the clock” activities
- have open workspaces with less confinement and more team centric objectives
The concept centers on the idea that work is mixed in with lifestyle.
If you are a traditional or baby boomer manager who glances at this concept and just as quickly dismisses it, may I suggest that you pause? There certainly are challenges here and it might seem impossible in manufacturing, retail, and healthcare (just naming a few), but to the extent possible this concept should be explored. Early adopters in some sectors are testing combinations of fixed (traditional) hours and flex hours (read flex as blending) in an attempt to stimulate cultural change.
Avoid thinking of this concept as functioning like a light switch, with full on or full off.
Most workplace cultures will benefit the most from strategically working towards this concept and should not try a drastic move from one extreme to the other. At the same time it is important to consider that successfully onboarding and retaining the future generation of workers might depend on how soon you begin to develop and value job roles and duties that incorporate more of a work / life blend.
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at DennisEGilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.