I recently ran across a USA Today article about Millennials and their expectations for the workplace. The article explained that many younger workers, born between 1980 and 1993, are looking for a “positive corporate culture.” The article cited examples of perks that create such a culture including generous personal leave policies, the option of working from home, after-hours social opportunities for employees, and even things like putting greens and ping-pong tables to help employees blow off steam during the work day. One company cited in the article touted a 95% employee retention rate.
I found this article particularly interesting because I recently completed VT’s Diversity Development Institute with a group of nine other VCE faculty and staff members as part of the new VCE Diversity Fellows program. We completed the Generations At Work training and talked at length about the generational groups currently represented in VCE’s workforce. We discussed the personality traits and work styles associated with each generation. Within my own office, we have two Baby Boomers, a Generation X’er, and two Millennials.
This article made me think about generational expectations of workplace climate, particularly as they relate to work/life balance. As a member of Generation X, I often find myself struggling to maintain some sense of balance. I am at the point in my life where my children are in school and are getting more heavily involved in sports and other extra-curricular activities. My parents are aging. And I am seemingly busier than ever at work. In talking to colleagues about work/life balance, it seems that many are dealing with similar issues. As spring and summer arrive, evening meetings and weekend programs are increasing for many of us. Many agents have confided that they are exhausted and a few have told me about struggles with health issues that are directly related to stress.
All of this information has led me to ponder the following questions:
- Are there generational issues at work here? Do we really have different expectations of how we balance work and life outside of Virginia Cooperative Extension? If so, do these differing expectations contribute to conflict in the workplace and higher stress levels?
- How do we perceive Extension’s culture? Do we, as people that stick with Extension careers, create the culture ourselves? Do we tend to be driven, often type-a personalities, high achievers who create our own culture of workaholics?
- How does Virginia Cooperative Extension’s culture compare to other organizations?
The Diversity Fellows would love to hear your responses prepare to offer training for agents and staff members in each district. We are looking forward to candid discussion about generational issues and other diversity topics in coming weeks.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts on generational issues and work/life balance?