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Are Your Younger Employees Working Longer Hours Than Their Older Team Members?

What is the difference between younger employees and older staff?  A recent study by CareerBuilder uncovered three important truths about today’s workforce:

  1. Almost 60% of employees today believe the 9 to 5 workday is a thing of the past
  2. 45% of employees work outside of their normal office hours.
  3. Younger workers were most likely to be among the 45% because they’re the most attached to their smartphones.

The last point has raised a few eyebrows for many people.

Of those surveyed, 60% of employees over the age of 55 said they don’t keep working after hours. 54% said they don’t even check or respond to emails after hours.

Are Your Younger Employees Working Longer Hours Than Their Older Team Members?

Why Younger Employees Work Longer Hours Than Older Employees

Perhaps this isn’t surprising news. After all, younger generations have grown up with instant access to almost everything.

Older employees were first introduced to the concept of email only a few decades ago. For younger employees, checking email is part of normal daily life. They’ve never known work without it.

Older employees were better able to leave work at the office when they went home because leaving work meant leaving for the day. Younger employees are used to the constant attachment their smartphones provide, so much so that detaching from it feels almost wrong.

But the varying worlds where each generation grew up isn’t the only reason for younger employees working more after hours.

In many cases, older employees are more experienced employees. This might have afforded them the right to be a little more flexible in when they work.

How Can You Bridge the Gap

There’s a clear gap in the workforce today – Millennials vs. “older” workers from other generations.

Motivating millennials is a challenge for many professionals. 74% of Millennials said that confidence in managers was an important driver of engagement. 84% of Millennials said that they’d rather make a difference in the world rather than receive recognition.

Why does this matter? Because this is a recipe for a rift to form in the workplace.

If Millennials want confidence in their managers, their managers had better respond to their emails after hours. If not, they might lose confidence and thereby also lose engagement.

If Millennials want to make a difference, they want to get things done right away. They’re not looking for recognition for racking up the hours, they’re looking for productivity from the rest of their team members. If they don’t see others working after hours, they could get frustrated and lose motivation.

As a business owner, this puts you in a difficult spot. Do you encourage more after hours work and risk burning out your more experienced employees? Or do you encourage your workforce to disconnect as soon as they walk out your doors?

It turns out, there’s a little bit you can do from both ends of the spectrum. Here are a few ideas for how you can bridge the generational gap while at the same time keeping your entire workforce productive.

Train, Train, Train

One of the biggest struggles with this generational gap is that the other generation doesn’t quite understand the different work behavior.

Training your employees on how each other works is one way to shed light on this issue. Let each employee share their reasons for wanting (or not wanting) to work after hours and then actively work to find the appropriate middle ground.

Lead by Example: Avoid Emailing After Hours

One of the easiest ways to encourage employees to disconnect is to lead by example and stop emailing after hours.

When an employee sees his boss emailing on a Saturday night, he feels compelled to respond. If he doesn’t, he might worry that he’s slacking off in the eyes of his boss. No matter how much you tell the employee that an immediate response isn’t necessary, seeing the boss working after hours sets a tone for what’s expected (even if that’s not your intention).

This doesn’t mean you have to stop what you’re doing and stop working on the weekends. Instead, try getting a tool, such as Boomerang, to have your emails sent first thing Monday morning. That way, you can still spill your thoughts any time over email, but not put undue pressure on your employees to respond right away.

Encourage Detachment …

Some employees need more than just a permission slip to disconnect. They need permission. They need to know that it’s not only okay to not respond to emails after hours, but it’s also not expected.

The more you can clarify this, the better. It gives your employees permission to breathe easier on the weekends without worrying that they’re going to drop the ball on an important project by not responding.

… But Also Attachment

Perhaps younger employees are onto something. Perhaps having some level of access to the office reduces stress rather than heightens it.

Sometimes, attachment to work is a good thing. Take, for example, a person’s schedule. Most of the time, when a person needs time off, it’s for something happening outside of the workplace, such as a vacation or a doctor’s appointment. By having instant access to the schedule through an app, such as ScheduleBase, they’re able to make their plans without having to head into the office.

This is just one way when having access to what’s happening at work can help reduce stress rather than heighten it.

Eliminate Time Off Policies

This might sound extreme, but many businesses have had tremendous success by offering unlimited vacation time. The reasoning behind it? Employees work hard enough after hours and the 9-5 workday really is a thing of the past, so vacation policies should be the same.

One company leading the charge in this is Virgin. Virgin’s time off policy has raised a few eyebrows. Companies and employees are intrigued by this new standard of operation. It’s innovative, but more importantly, it’s also respectful of the employee’s time.

When an employee works hard and has all of his work completed, it makes sense that he should be allowed to leave the office – at least for most businesses.

By offering this type of flexibility in your business, you not only encourage your employees to achieve work/life balance, you make it possible.

Takeaways

Some employees will check their email after hours. Others will not. To help your team remain cohesive without tarnishing expectations or damaging a person’s reputation unnecessarily, it’s important to talk to your team. Outline what you want from your employees both in the office and out. Then, lead by example, so there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind about what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

What do you do to bridge the generational gap? Share in the comments below.

Image: View of young boss leading business conference


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Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine's Top 500 Software Companies 2004-2007 and again in 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2016. http://www.schedulebase.com

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