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Bad Economy Hasn't Changed Gen Y's Desire For Work/Life Balance

Posted by: Lindsey Gerdes on September 03

Apparently students still value work-life balance above all else when listing top characteristics of an ideal entry-level employer, placing it well above other factors such as salary and meaningful work.

This according to Tracy Lynn Drye, the Senior VP of Employer Branding & University Relations at Universum USA, the research firm BusinessWeek partners with for the student data portion of our Best Places to Launch a Career ranking.

Drye says that work/life balance usually drops on students’ lists of priorities during recessions, but not this time around. “I think this goes back to the fact that this generation is not afraid to ask for what previous generations didn’t,” says Drye. “They want more work/life balance and more flexibility and the ability to work on their own time and their own hours.”

But right now aren’t people more concerned with getting a job in the first place and having some security? It would seem that work/life balance would be the last thing on their minds. Or that it should be, at least..

If these statistics are true (Universum surveyed over 60,000 undergrads about the most important characteristics of ideal employers), they seem to play into the stereotype of Millennials/Gen Y as a rather entitled, spoiled group of young workers.

However, one could also argue that having balance in one’s life actually improves effectiveness and is a much more realistic goal in this era of internet and cell phones because it’s far easier to have flexibility that eluded prior generation.

Your thoughts?

Reader Comments

George Moore

September 3, 2009 08:29 PM

I can compare my experience of "X " and Millenials. "X" went to college, got her Chem E, worked a while, paid off her debts & married a Navy man; they're overseas with my 3 grand daughters having a ball. A marginal x/Millenial was home-schooled. Tremendous social abilities, hasn't been to college yet, has beat-out MBA's for his present job at B of A. Started work at 17 and took to it like duck to water. Youngest turned 18 one week in May '07, the next week he graduated high school and the following week accepted a job at Dell. He's still there. He's so busy he's meeting himself at the front door. His boss told him he has to go to college [won't listen to me], so I think he'll really do it. No complaints here! They're busy building a world.

jean kelley

September 3, 2009 10:12 PM

While Millenials are known for wanting work life harmony I find them willing to go the extra mile at work if they are in a position where they can use their talent and skills.
Jean Kelley
Jean kelley Leadership Consulting.


September 4, 2009 05:04 AM

It has always been a certitude that with the advent of mobile technology devices, flexibility and mobility are taken for granted.

It has never failed to appeal to Gen Y any facet of life that deals with expression of freedom.

However, the predominant dependency for work/life balance is high efficiency in output that may not be visible still for Gen Y at their entry levels.

Richard McNahred

September 4, 2009 09:14 AM

I don't think it's worth reading because I know how they put there stats together.

Janey Osterlind

September 7, 2009 09:28 PM

I find it interesting that the study found that Gen Y-ers listed work-life balance above meaningful work. Could it be that our generation is disillusioned with the notion of "meaningful work" and defining oneself by career and instead has made it their goal to get a life outside of work?

Renee Lee

September 9, 2009 01:55 AM

The reality for us is that, unlike earlier generations, work is not our life. Work is important to us but we’ve been taught that it is better, for our health, to work to live, rather than live to work.

In addition to work we may also be juggling study, friends, family, sport, other paid and unpaid work commitments. Hence the need for flexibility. Remember: if there’s a clash in the work-life balance, life inevitably wins.

For this reason entrepreneurship is a great work path because it allows us to become our own boss


September 11, 2009 11:14 AM

Working is hard and since a work place can get so unstable in only a short while. People are starting to look for new career paths to follow.


November 5, 2009 11:03 AM

Generation Y is able to maintain their work life/balance because their parents subsidize their life style. Every generation would have the same attitude if they had parents with deep pockets.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



Read daily reports and special features from BusinessWeek editors and reporters Lindsey Gerdes and Louis Lavelle about companies, careers, and other topics of interest to young professionals.

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