Blended Life: Friend or Foe to the Workplace?

Jun 28, 2016

Blended Life

For decades, the term "work-life balance" has been used to describe the equilibrium and separation between professional and personal time. But times are changing.

See " A trend toward Work—Life Fusion: A multi-generational shift in technology use at work," by Donna L. Haeger and Tony Lingham, published in Technological Forecasting and Social Change (Volume 89, November 2014, pages 316–325) and on the ScienceDirect website. The research paper's authors look at how, in today's fast-paced, on-the-move, technology-driven world, a new norm is quickly being established—a blended life—meaning there is little distinction between work and play. It seems as if people are always plugged in and are working anytime, from anywhere.

Technology is fundamentally changing how we communicate. Such a shift dramatically affects our work environments, especially when different generations with different expectations and behavioral norms are involved. Although many organizations are enabling employees to take advantage of a blended life through flexible working hours, telecommuting, and job sharing, are all generations of workers actually adopting a blended life?

Born between 1946 and 1964, baby boomers are viewed as hardworking team players who have often sacrificed their personal time for their professional success, as pointed out in a blog by Cathy Leibow ​titled "Work/Life Balance for the Generations," published in the Huffington Post October 16, 2014, and updated December 16, 2014. Individuals in this aging demographic are starting to deal with their own health issues, often on top of caring for elderly parents and supporting children and grandchildren, as Ms. Leibow described them, and baby boomers may now feel a sense of responsibility to shift their priorities. These often senior-level professionals may no longer seek solely to dedicate themselves to their careers; instead, they may be seeking flexibility with work-life commitments. ​Even if some may not be as adept at using technology to enable more options for a blended life, Ms. Leibow explains that baby boomers can use part-time or flex-time schedules to remain professionally engaged and productive while allowing them to be more present in their personal lives.

Generation X employees also seem to desire a greater degree of flexibility from the workplace. Ms. Leibow suggests in her blog post that ​generation X employees, born between 1965 and 1980, may not share the same type of dedication to their careers as baby boomers. Those in this younger demographic may have grown up seeing their parents devote long hours to their jobs and little time to anything else. Members of generation X whose goals are shaped from this imbalance may desire a solid work-life balance, seeking to make time for their families and interests outside of the workplace. Although this generation is independent and adaptable, Ms. Leibow says these employees may lack a sense of loyalty to employers and are likely to job hop to better accommodate their personal lives and goals. Based on that supposition, organizations that offer ​generation X employees increased job flexibility are more appealing to, and will employ a greater number of, this generation.

Generation Y individuals, better known as millennials, probably blur the lines between their work and personal lives more than any previous generation. Born between 1981 and 2000, this generation grew up multitasking with the help of technology, according to Ms. Leibow. Millennials have likely never worked in an environment without the Internet, e-mail, or voicemail and use social media and texting on a daily basis.

Viewed as enthusiastic and entrepreneurial, millennials are willing to sacrifice a higher salary for greater flexibility in their careers, according to Ms. Leibow, and are perhaps even less loyal to employers than generation X employees. Ms. Leibow cites data indicating those in this demographic will likely change organizations and even career paths multiple times in order to satisfy their blended life requirements of telecommuting, defining their work schedules, and having flexibility with taking time off. Organizations that set a goal to meet the demands of tech-savvy millennials expect to see not only greater productivity from this demographic but also a competitive advantage from employing the most-equipped generation for confronting an increasingly technical world.

Organizations that recognize and embrace the value of a multigenerational workforce seeking ​more job flexibility and a blended life can expect to see increased employee satisfaction, greater employee productivity, and lower turnover, ​thus creating a culture that encourages individuals to live well-rounded lives.

ZERORISK helps organizations build great cultures by identifying, developing, and retaining top talent. The ZERORISK Hiring System blends a revolutionary behavioral science with state-of-the-art technology to reduce unwanted turnover and improve employee performance. For more information contact us at (800) 827-5991.

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