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How Millennials, Gen Z are shifting focus to balance in work life, not just work-life balance

While extremely driven to find meaning and success in their professional lives, millennials are now evaluating work opportunities based on its contribution towards holistic wellness

Sandeep Sinha | April 14, 2021 | Updated 13:22 IST
How Millennials, Gen Z are shifting focus to balance in work life, not just work-life balance
Organisations that understand and address the inner wellness needs of their employees are the ones that will succeed in this emerging landscape of the future of work

Top-down decision making, structured career trajectory, and retiring 60 years later from a firm that you began your very first job with - typically defined the work culture when I entered the corporate world 30 years ago.

I was fortunate to be chosen for the Leadership Programme at GE which served as the ideal launch pad for a rather successful career.

However, when I reflect on my training modules, I can't help but wonder if those tools that guided me to success in those times, would lead to the same results today.

The work landscape has changed significantly over the last few years, with millennials and gen Z leading this transformation. Akin to every other aspect of their lives, this new age workforce seeks something more meaningful and profound than a routine, structured work-life that leaves no room for personal growth or time to enjoy those simple yet defining family moments and milestones.

Also Read: COVID-19 lockdown hit work-life balance; WFH leaves no time for family

The pandemic has further escalated this paradigm shift, redefining the concept of work as well as redesigning the very execution of it.

We are suddenly more aware than ever of the impermanence of life and the subsequent importance of 'now'. Work satisfaction is no longer one of the attributes that an employee or an entrepreneur seeks, but rather features at the top of the priority list.

An investment banker is not afraid to quit and become a best-selling author. A successful advertising and marketing professional, quits her job and launches one of the first parenting portals in India, and lays the foundation for a whole new parenting category that has been growing in leaps and bounds.

From heading the artificial intelligence department to emerging as the next social media sensation, the world of opportunity has become limitless and only defined by one's passion and capabilities to succeed in careers that didn't even exist a decade ago.

Trying to fit the old learning and training modules in this new evolved work landscape is similar to unwittingly forcing a round peg down a square hole.

Interpersonal skills, communication abilities, adaptability, were considered as 'good--to-have' skills but hardly ever featured amongst the top skills to succeed in the corporate world. Today, these skills can turn around the fortunes of a company, besides placing the individual on a fast-track career trajectory.  

A medical or engineering degree is no longer the holy grail! Information and Technology (IT) have become the new buzzwords, but again the work landscape seems to be evolving way faster than the IT degrees churned out by universities that haven't changed their curriculum to keep pace with the changing corporate world.

There is a need to impart knowledge that grooms this next generation of IT experts to analyse the web of data that is available at our fingertips and to strategise the most effective and efficient use of this data.

A drive of innovation, the ability to take calculated risks, and the vision to go beyond the boundaries of possibility are the qualities that the new work landscape demands. Thus, there is an urgent need to re-evaluate the content and delivery platforms of even the most esteemed institutions to create a competent workforce rather than a crowd of degree holders. The first step towards a more fulfilling and satisfying work life.

A few years into my corporate journey I remember asking a senior colleague what it took to achieve work-life balance and he simply shrugged his shoulder and said focus on excelling in one and the rest simply falls in place, which in those days meant excel at work and don't worry about the non-existent personal life.

Anytime, anywhere work pattern has stretched our daily routines and eroded the boundaries between our professional and personal lives. COVID-19 has further accelerated this blurring of our worlds.

Overwhelming deadlines, the 24/7 work-life mindset, and that perennial quest to attain 'something more' to reach that elusive finish line has created a looming cloud of discontent and stress that is impacting our relationships and overall mental wellness.

Also Read: 'Stress, burnout, job insecurity': Tough for women in COVID-19 world

We've created and mastered the construct that defines the outward trappings of a perfect life, with a well-paid job, a comfortable home, and a stable financial status, but fail to experience the joy and bliss it should bring into our lives.

The new-age millennials are becoming acutely aware of the fatigue that is setting into their lives and are seeking opportunities to rediscover the route to inner peace and wellness.

While extremely driven to find meaning and success in their professional lives, millennials are now evaluating work opportunities based on its contribution towards holistic wellness.

These could include flexible hours that don't force one to miss those important family milestones; workshops about spirituality and healing, yoga training facilities, or even sabbaticals to simply travel and realign with their inner purpose.

Also Read: Mandatory 5-day work week may not return again: Unilever COO

Organisations that understand and address the inner wellness needs of their employees are the ones that will succeed in this emerging landscape of the future of work.

The future of work is here with a new-age workforce driven by meaning and purpose. Holistic wellness will play a significant role in shaping this purpose-driven work landscape with millennials and Gen Z not afraid to settle for anything less than a balanced work-life that adds meaning and a sense of fulfilment to their existence.

Success will not be measured in dollar value alone, but also in the ability to experience the bliss of inner peace and content. Education, work, and wellness will no longer exist in silos. The next few years will see these three areas disrupt, grow, and integrate more closely to create a more fluid and holistic new world.

(The author is Managing Partner, Lumis Partners.)

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