In the past, work was a location. Today, work has shifted from a place to a space. The technology shift from fixed communications to mobile communications has redefined how and where we work.

In the past, most working professionals would get into their cars and make their morning commutes to work. They would arrive at a building, and upon entering it, they would begin work. At 5:00 p.m., they would exit the building and drive home, and once they were at home, they weren't tempted to work anymore because they didn't have the capacity to do so.

Today, 42 percent of employees feel obligated to check in with work while on vacation, according to Randstad's Employee Engagement Study. The study also found that Millennials were the generation "most inclined to remain 'on' during off hours."

For Millennials, the never-offline and always-available workplace is all they know. To them, turning off work at 5:00 p.m. is an antiquated practice. Due to their always-on approach to life, Millennials see no problem with blending work and life. Checking e-mail before they get out of bed in the morning, then shopping online while at work, exchanging texts with their managers after 8:00 p.m., and then catching up on e-mail on Sunday afternoon is native to them.

Every generation seeks a healthy work-life balance, but it's Millennials who most demand it from their employers. In today's employee market, creating work-life balance for Millennials is a compelling competitive advantage.

Why Work-Life Balance Matters to Millennials

  1. It defines success.
    Millennials don't view climbing the corporate ladder or owning tangible items (job title, house, salary, car, and the like) as success. According to the 2016 Millennial Survey by Deloitte, 16.8 percent of Millennials evaluate career opportunities by good work-life balance, followed by 13.4 percent who look for opportunities to progress and 11 percent who seek flexibility (i.e., remote working and flexible hours). For many Millennials, success is having control over how and when they work and accumulating various life experiences, both of which are enabled by a better work-life balance.
  2. They're always on.
    Millennials are the first generation to enter the workforce with access to technology that enables them to seamlessly work remotely, which 75 percent of Millennials want more opportunities to do. Millennials are eager to capitalize on the new technological capabilities (that they are already familiar with) to create more flexibility and thus a better work-life balance.
  3. They're moving up.
    According to EY's Global Generation Research, nearly one-third of Millennials say that managing their work, family, and personal responsibilities has become more difficult in the past five years. And 47 percent of Millennial managers around the globe reported an increase in their hours at a time when many are moving into management and starting families (compared to 38 percent for Gen X and 28 percent for Boomers).
  4. They're dual income.
    According to a 2015 EY study, Millennials find it harder to achieve work-life balance because they are almost twice as likely to have a spouse or partner who works at least full time than Boomers (78 percent versus 47 percent).

The bottom line is that Millennials are entering a stage of life when they are marrying, buying homes, and having children at the same time that the demands of work are increasing, while they are equipped (and sometimes expected) to work 24/7. It's no wonder that 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.

Millennials aren't alone, according to the 2016 LinkedIn Censuswide Study, nearly half of American workers would forgo the corner-office job and a high salary to gain more flexibility in their schedules.

Yet, despite a growing desire for a better work-life balance, only 53 percent of workers say their employer values work-life balance, and only 43 percent say their employers offer programs and policies that allow for flexibility, according to a 2016 survey from the American Psychological Association.

To effectively engage and retain Millennials, create more work-life harmony.

(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.)