Ran Zilca on Millennials Think About Work Too Much

Ran Zilca of Happify ran a study on Millennials that reveals them to be work-obsessed, bed-loving, and irreligious [emphasis mine].

When asked what they are grateful for, people typically respond with the things they personally recognize as important — what they appreciate and value. Gratitude text can therefore provide a glimpse into the fundamental life priorities of individuals. In our study, 276,296 Happify users (30.7% of them in the age range of 25–34) responded to a gratitude exercise where they were asked to “jot down three things that happened today or yesterday that made you feel grateful.” Users were directed to think of a broad range of possibilities: “It could be something someone did for you, something you did for yourself, or just the simple fact that the sun was shining.”
Across all ages, the most common topics were related to “spending quality time with family and friends.” Yet the topics for which Millennials specifically expressed the most gratitude were different: “positive interactions with colleagues,” “having a low-stress commute,” “getting a new job,” “being satisfied with an existing job,” “sleeping,” and “relaxing in bed.”
Four out of these six topics were career related and had to do with the process of finding a job or with daily work experiences, and the remaining two topics were related to time spent in bed. Since the gratitude question specifically asked about things that happened today or yesterday, we can fairly confidently say that the unique things characterizing positive Millennial experiences take place at work or in bed.
The two topics of gratitude that were far less common for Millennials were “religious events,” a positive event that happened at church or a church event like singing in the choir, and “friends and family,” a topic that was among the most common for users of other ages.

Millennials are career-wacked drones that apparently live to work and sleep, and they lack the grounding of sociality and spirituality, alas.

Originally published at www.stoweboyd.com.

Tech workers aren’t disloyal, they’re under appreciated

It’s become something of a cliché to note that tech workers bounce between jobs faster than a pinball rebounds against the confines of its rubber-lined machine. Common wisdom says this is because millennials are flaky, and that loyalty has no place in a job market where changing jobs can often lead to a higher income. But new research suggests this phenomenon has another motivator: appreciation.
TINYpulse (hereafter stylized as “TinyPulse”) recently surveyed more than 5,000 people who work at tech companies in the United States. It found that many tech workers who see themselves sticking with their current employer for at least a year are the same workers who feel like the company values them. And while “value” can sometimes mean “pay,” it can also mean other things, too.
The survey showed that the majority of workers at tech companies aren’t particularly happy at work, feel under appreciated, and don’t feel they’re provided with sufficient opportunities for growth or support in their careers. Many of these feelings were more pronounced in people who work in IT, but most workers offered negative or milquetoast in response to the survey.
“There’s widespread workplace dissatisfaction in the tech space, and it’s undermining the happiness and engagement of these employees,” TinyPulse said. “The problem goes beyond workplace satisfaction […] engagement is one of the key ingredients for employee innovation. If we aren’t engaging our IT workers, we aren’t setting them up to perform the way we need them to.”
Anyone who questions the effect feeling valued can have on someone changing careers should just look at Amazon. A New York Times report showed that the company’s offices — and its warehouses — are brutal. Researchers from the University of Kansas lent more evidence to that idea by showing Amazon’s workers have a worse work-life balance than workers at other tech companies.
And, surprise, surprise, workers aren’t willing to put up with that. As the New York Times said in its report:

Employees, human resources executives and recruiters describe a steady exodus. ‘The pattern of burn and churn at Amazon, resulting in a disproportionate number of candidates from Amazon showing at our doorstep, is clear and consistent,’ Nimrod Hoofien, a director of engineering at Facebook and an Amazon veteran, said in a recent Facebook post.

I wouldn’t be surprised if more reports like the one on Amazon start to appear. Maybe tech workers, especially young ones who are accused of lacking loyalty or belonging to a generation of frenzied dilettantes, are simply trying to find places to work that give them the appreciation they’re looking for. It’s not just about the money — it’s about finding a place that treats workers like human beings.
Not that the money hurts, of course.

Employers and employees differ on the causes — and cures — for workplace stress

In a recently released report, the professional services firm Towers Watson revealed that stress is the top workforce issue (see 2013/2014 [email protected] U.S. Executive Summary Report). And the top causes of stress? According to employers, these are the factors:

  1. lack of work/life balance
  2. inadequate staffing
  3. technologies that expand employee availability during nonworking hours
  4. unclear or shifting job expectations.

Employees disagree, citing things in this order:

  1. inadequate staffing
  2. low pay or low increases in pay
  3. unclear or conflicting job expectations
  4. organizational culture, including lack of teamwork, and tendency to avoid accountability and assign blame to others.

Loosely translated, the primary cause of stress: too much work. Too much work stealing time away from family, community and other interests; too much work because employers are running leaner than ever before; and too much work because our companion devices are always with us, and there’s always one more email or status update to read.

I guess it comes as no surprise that employees and employers disagree, but take a look at the mismatch:

Screenshot 2013-12-04 08.51.47

Employers and employees are wildly at variance on the question of work/life balance. The employers, I guess, want to put the primary cause of stress on the back of their employees, suggesting that if they could just do a better job of balancing, things would be much better. And employers also want to blame the victim here about their addiction to mobile technologies.

The low pay issue is the second most important for employees, and no surprise, since pay for non-executives has remained flat for decades, and for many people it has fallen. People are stressed by financial issues.

And number three from the perspective of employees is unclear or conflicting job expectations. That’s an accusation that management doesn’t have its act together. And number 4, employees say organizational culture is divisive and not supportive.

The Bottom Line

This study shows a huge disconnect in business today about workplace stress. Management is not hearing the message from employees: “You are working us too hard. Pay me adequately. Make job responsibilities clear, and create a culture that supports, not divides.”

Clearly, a company that attacks those issues will decrease stress in the workforce. That translates to improved well-being for the people at work, and an improved bottom line for the company, since stress is closely linked to decreased performance, sick time, and turnover.

My recommendation would be for business to work on decreasing stress as a major initiative. Turned around, all of these factors arise from the cultural level, starting with the core principles and values of the company. And stress is a factor in burnout, as I wrote about recently (see Burnout is the consequence of a broken way of work).

Management rhetoric about the happiness of the customer, service delivery, product quality, or delivering returns to shareholders all too frequently suppresses the basic requirements of employee well-being, and that is wrong as well as unsustainable.

This is a deep and chronic issue, one that can’t be gamed with an employee-of-the-month initiative, and represents a systemic failure of the theory and practice of ‘human resources’. A disconnect this big brings the entire foundation of HR into question.

Does wanting balance mean you are lazy?

I stumbled across an egregious example of a pernicious trend in Businessweek today, in a piece entitled Do U.S. Business Majors Have a Case of Ambition Deficit Disorder? The author, Francesca Di Meglio, posed this question after learning that 61% of US business majors said that their highest career priority was work-life balance. The tone of the article is pretty strident that this represents a moral failing of the Millennials in business schools, and that other possible goals — like advancing in management, or seeking out challenging work — should be higher in the rankings.
The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence starts with this famous sentence,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Altogether too frequently, it seems to me, commentary about how people should be spending their time, and what we should consider valuable, forgets the simple and inherent importance of pursuing happiness. And working 60 hours a week for 40 years is not necessarily the short path to get there.
Cali Williams Yost wrote a thoughtful post on this subject, 3 Reasons “Balance” Has Become A Dirty Word At Work. Yost relates a discussion with a senior executive about Millennials, where he shares the “Millennials are lazy” meme. Yost thinks the truth is different:

He is not alone in that thinking. The meme that Gen-Y/Millennials “don’t want to work hard” exists, in part, because they talk so openly about work-life balance. But is the bias fair?
First, there will always be people in every generation who don’t want to work hard. The Gen-Y/Millennials are no exception, but is it accurate to ascribe that quality to an entire generation simply because they are open about how they want to make their lives both on and off the job a priority?

She goes on to answer  that question in the negative, citing new evidence from the American Psychological Association about workplace retention [emphasis mine]:

Although 60 percent of working Americans said they remain with their current employers because of benefits and 59 percent reported staying because of the pay, more than two-thirds (67 percent) said they choose to stay because their jobs fit well with the other aspects of their lives. Sixty-seven percent also said they stay at their current jobs because they enjoy the work they do. Even with the slow economic recovery and relatively high unemployment, only 39 percent of respondents cited lack of other job opportunities as a reason for staying with their current employers.
“Americans spend a majority of their waking hours at work and, as such, they want to have harmony between their job demands and the other parts of their lives,” says David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, head of APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. “To engage the workforce and remain competitive, it’s no longer sufficient to focus solely on benefits. Today, top employers create an environment where employees feel connected to the organization and have a positive work experience that’s part of a rich, fulfilling life.”

Yost makes the case that Millennials are simply more likely to expect that desire for balance to be openly discussed, and to involve increased flexibility of where, when, and how work is performed. This is the internet generation, and they know that they can do some parts of their work anywhere. However, their boomer overlords and Gen X are more likely to want them in the office 9-to-5 to match the perceptions and norms of an earlier era.
But I don’t expect to hear the end of the ‘ambition deficit disorder’ meme anytime soon.

Women can have it all… if we get rid of “time macho”

An article on women and work-life balance is stirring a predictable flurry of debate on the internet, but the piece is worth reading for those interested in remote collaboration as well as gender issues for what it says about “time macho” work culture and telecommuting.

Design tips for home offices in small spaces

Got a remote gig that allows you to work from home but a home that isn’t exactly palatial? Design pros channel James Bond to offer clever solutions to keep your business and personal life from blurring, even if you’re living in tight quarters.

Is remote work making Americans’ vacation starvation worse?

A handful of new surveys reveal many Americans are planning to work through the holidays, increasing both their vacation starvation and the risk of burnout. The dreary economy can’t help, but are new ways of working, including remote teams and constant connectivity, partly to blame?

Telecommuting makes life worse for some working parents, study says

For stressed-out working parents, telecommuting seems like an intuitive solution to improving the juggle and reducing their time squeeze. But according to surprising research published in the Journal of Business and Psychology, telecommuting may actually make matters worse for some busy parents.

Web work: Not for the insecure?

Issues like time management and work-life balance challenges have been covered on WebWorkerDaily before, but one difficult aspect of solo work studied by Susan J. Ashford, professor at the University of Michigan, is less often discussed: the challenges to ego and self-worth that solo work presents.