There is a distinct difference between Gen X and Gen Y, and – as far as I can see – it’s defined by our ideal work situation. Generation X, comprised of teens who grew up listening to punk rock and throwing their middle finger up at the “establishment,” has a hard and fast rule: there’s work, and there’s play. They essentially coined the term “work/life balance.” They understand the value of putting in a hard day of work, and then shutting down their technology and enjoying the rest of their life in the evenings and on weekends.
Generation Y – aka The Millennials (and the demographic that I fall in to) – see it quite differently. We’re not looking for “balance,” as Gen X so desires – but rather integration. While the latest and greatest in lifestyle and womens’ magazines were touting work/life balance as the ideal, in the last six months or so a new term has cropped up – work/life integration.
Since going out on my own (career wise, not like – into the wilderness or anything) I’ve learned that there probably isn’t ever going to be a time when there’s a clear division of my personal life and my work life, and I’m going to need to be alright with the two areas integrating – and that’s 100% fine by me. I often find myself respond to e-mails from clients while I’m still laying in bed in the morning, or scrolling through my clients’ Twitter accounts while I’m at Sunday dinner at my parents’ house, just to make sure there aren’t any problems that need solving.
That might sound like a drag, but there’s definitely benefits to work/life integration. For example, if my mom wants to go mother-of-the-bride dress shopping at 3pm on a Friday, I can simply pack up my things and go – knowing that my work will be waiting for me later in the evening, or even on Saturday morning. And also knowing that as long as I’ve got my cell phone with me, there’s not going to be a situation where I can’t handle anything immediately, if needed. I have complete control over my schedule (well, unless a client needs to schedule a meeting – then I’ve got to play by their rules a bit), and can flex my time as needed to ensure that I’m able to get everything in my personal and professional life completed in a timely, stress-free manner.
Oh, and did I mention that if it’s a beautiful day out you’re totally allowed to take your laptop outside to the back deck and catch some rays while logging some hours? What’s better than doing what you love while getting some fresh air and Vitamin D? (Yup, that was totally my office on Friday afternoon.)