How companies help Millennials achieve work-life harmony (the upgraded version of work-life balance) will differ depending on the company culture and business realities--customer-facing teams won't have the same flexibility that a team of developers might have.
But nonetheless, work-life harmony should be a workplace element that is pursued and consistently reevaluated by any organization...especially since Millennials value work-life balance higher than all other job characteristics such as job progression, use of technology, and a sense of meaning at work.
18 Ways to Retain Millennials with Better Work-Life Harmony
- Observe employees
Where in your organization or throughout the day might Millennial employees experience frustration, heavy workloads, or stress? Increased mistakes, excessive absenteeism, physical exhaustion, or general unhappiness might be warning signs that employees are lacking work-life harmony.
- Survey employees
Because work-life harmony will look and mean something different to everyone, it's important to ask your Millennial employees what type of work-life harmony would be most useful, productive, and desirable for them.
- Offer training
Work-life harmony can be a fluffy and ambiguous topic, so offering training that offers specific strategies and tools to achieve harmony would be helpful to many employees, especially for Millennials who are young in their experience of juggling work and life priorities. (Training topics might include: how to set up a home workspace that limits distractions; health and wellness; prioritizing to-dos and task management; how to reduce stress; etc.)
- Structure flextime
Allowing Millennials to choose when they work is fundamental for their achievement of work-life harmony. Consider structuring flextime with weekly hour requirements that they can choose how to allocate (for example, PwC boasts compressed workweeks--longer hours per day for fewer days per week) or with a weekly hour range, or have requirements only for what work needs to be completed.
- Enable telecommuting
Allowing Millennials to choose where they work is also fundamental in their achievement of work-life harmony. Offering telecommuting to workers provides additional freedom for them to care for personal items while still getting work done.
- Relabel flexibility
Because mobile technology and ubiquitous connectivity have enabled today's work to be completed anywhere and anytime, flextime and telecommuting shouldn't be considered "perks" or things that must be earned over time. Millennials view flexibility as a standard work function, and employers that label it as a perk will seem outdated.
- End working weekends
JPMorgan Chase recently joined other Wall Street banks in telling its employees to take weekends off in order to improve their work-life harmony.
- Remove exclusivity
Millennials may not have as many family responsibilities (kids, grandkids, aging parents, a house, etc.), but they have similar desires to find harmony between work and life (travel, education, etc.). Don't make work-life harmony options exclusively for senior employees.
- Encourage efficiency
According to a UK study from the Mental Health Foundation, after working long hours, 27 percent of employees feel depressed, 34 percent feel anxious, and 58 percent feel irritable. Avoid pushing employees to work longer hours. Instead, enable and encourage Millennials to leverage their digital resourcefulness to work smarter and with greater efficiency. Focus on output (results), not just input (time spent).
- Involve family
Finding creative ways (family-friendly events or a "bring your pets to work" day) to involve Millennial employees' families (spouses, parents, kids, or pets) is a powerful way to integrate life with work.
- Prioritize health
A healthier workforce leads to reduced stress, boosted productivity, and fewer absences. Extended periods of working can force Millennials to sacrifice health and fitness. Offer health and wellness training, provide well-being classes (such as yoga), use standing desks, create nap rooms, start a company sports team (kickball, softball, etc.), conduct walking meetings, or offer discounts to a local gym.
- Promote breaks
For Millennials at work, Snapchat is the new smoke break. Build in time when workers are encouraged to take rejuvenation breaks from work. Taking breaks has been shown to increase productivity levels.
- Nurture creativity
Allowing Millennials the time and space to exercise creativity will provide a better sense of balance, keep them mentally fit, and will nurture the innovative thinking that is crucial for any organization operating in today's age of disruption. Creative outlets can include puzzles, video games, or off-the-wall side projects.
- Permit volunteering
Allowing Millennials time off to pursue volunteer or charitable work can keep them happy and in harmony.
- Give parental leave
One of the life stages that requires Millennials to focus on life over work is having a baby. Recently, a number of high-profile companies have announced their robust policies surrounding parental leave. Facebook and IKEA now offer new parents (mothers and fathers) four months of paid baby leave. Netflix recently began offering unlimited parental leave.
- Support vacationing
Encourage Millennials to take advantage of their vacation days or consider expanding the number of vacation days offered--or eliminate the accrued-vacation policy and offer unlimited vacation...you might be surprised how few vacation days Millennials will actually take.
- Provide childcare
Working Millennial parents will experience less stress and find more harmony if childcare is available on-site or if there is a discount at a nearby childcare center.
- Lend help
Providing Millennial employees with access to services to help them with personal errands or household responsibilities reduces stress and allows more leisure time away from work. On-site or nearby services might include: dry-cleaning, meals, auto repairs, gift wrapping, or a concierge service that coordinates other miscellaneous needs. Be sure to ask Millennials what services might be most helpful, since they might already be using apps like TaskRabbit or Goodservice for these needs.
Whatever work-life harmony strategies you decide to use, be sure to back them up with your example. Leaders must promote and exemplify the work-life harmony that they wish to see in their Millennial workforce.
The change starts with you.
(This is 1 of the 47 strategies Ryan shares in his new book, The Millennial Manual: The Complete How-To Guide to Manage, Develop, and Engage Millennials at Work.)