Stress and the workplace appear to be inseparable bedfellows in the contemporary environment, with nearly 80 percent of workers saying they experience stress on the job and 50 percent admitting they need help learning how to deal with it. How much stress people feel, however, varies, with Millennials and Gen X-ers feeling more stressed out than people in older generations. As it turns out, science suggests that the way younger people perceive the passage of time could be having a pretty strong influence on their ability to cope.

What Causes Time Perception Differences

In general, younger individuals see time as passing more slowly. As people get older, their perception of time speeds up. Scientists have a few hypotheses about why this happens, but their main theory is based on familiarity. Younger individuals are still gaining a ton of knowledge about the world, so they have to dedicate more brainpower to interpreting details and figuring everything out.

In essence, there's always something novel to distract them from the fact the clock is ticking. By contrast, older people pay less attention to what's around them because they've already been exposed to a lot of what's available. Their brains have less new stuff to process, so they finally can pay more attention to the hour and see time as flying by.

Applying the Theory to the Workplace

Because Millennials and Gen X-ers have a slower view of time, they might feel anxious when older co-workers or bosses push them to work faster. Their natural inclination to review, analyze, and refuse to take things at face value might cause them to improperly procrastinate or waste time looking at too much or irrelevant information.

Those outside their generations subsequently might see them as lazy. That misconception can strain team relationships and cause younger workers to feel even more stress.

Progress Starts With Awareness

Managers can't magically change how workers see time, but they can minimize conflict and maximize productivity by making staff aware that perceptional differences exist. Once awareness is on the table, discussions can take place to form positive plans and solutions.

Published on: Aug 25, 2016