Should millennials expect work-life balance?

Like the generations that came before, millennials (generally defined as those born between 1980 and 2000) are changing the workplace and redefining the role of work in their lives.

Changing times, changing needs

According to research from US consumer insights company The Intelligence Group, 88 per cent of millennials want “work-life integration” (different to “balance” as work and life are largely integrated today) and 74 per cent want “flexible work schedules”. And it’s easy to understand why. Millennials have grown up in an era of rapid change, where technological developments, like social media, smartphones and the internet, have revolutionised many parts of everyday life – from the way we shop, watch TV and listen to music, to the way we travel, communicate and work.

Less than a decade or so ago, the idea of work finished when you left the office and holidays were actually work free. Nowadays, in a connected, always-on culture, the expectations are different. It’s therefore easy to understand why work-life balance is different for millennials too.

Redefining work-life balance

While there may be occasions that call for longer days or sending a few emails outside office hours, the idea that graduates or new hires have to prove their worth and ‘do their time’ by skipping lunch breaks, working late nights and on weekends is an outdated notion.

According to Millennials: Understanding a misunderstood generation, which surveyed 16,637 people aged between 18 and 30 in 43 countries during 2014, millennials value work-life balance but define it in different ways. When asked what they consider work-life balance to be, the most popular definition was “enough leisure time for my private life” at 57 per cent, followed by “flexible work hours” and “recognition and respect for employees”, both at 45 per cent respectively.

Meeting millennial work needs

The saying “Work is not a place, but a thing you do” is one that resonates strongly with millennials. High on their list of workplace benefits is flexibility. So the implementation of flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting, working from home and flextime (where employees can undertake a flexible work schedule, starting and finishing at different times to the conventional 9am to 5.30pm, but still working a requisite amount of hours) are considerations.

As are the use of technologies – such as videoconferencing, cloud computing and cross-functional platforms – in everyday business to assist collaboration and efficiency within teams and across the business. Innovation and flexibility are qualities that AXA promotes across its businesses.

The case for wellbeing

Cultivating workplaces that have a supportive and community culture is also important. AXA appreciates that employees aspire to have a healthy work-life balance and do what we can to advocate this. The 2013 AXA Group Human Capital Social Data report found the Group’s average number of working hours per week was 37.5.

Wellness workplace initiatives, such as the AXA Lifestyle program, which was launched in AXA Mexico, also appeal and help staff feel looked after and supported. The program offers staff health-risk assessments and annual medical check-ups, designed to identify potential health problems early on, along with nutrition programs, stress management classes and sports activities.

Outside the workplace, AXA is involved with an array of company-led CSR initiatives. These help our business and employees give back to the communities that we operate in, but also offer new experiences and insights.

Catering to the changing needs of employees, such as millennials and their desire to have a healthy work-life balance, benefits the company with a workforce that feels trusted and supported, as well as overall higher productivity, staff engagement and retention.