Early career professionals value work-life harmony. Many are not good at it.
According to the youngest employees in the office, the colleagues they admire most are those who take time for themselves and lead a life according to their own rules. Deloitte’s annual survey of Gen Zers and millennials, which was shared with The Wall Street Journal before its release next week, revealed that fancy titles and fat salaries were far less impressive.
Those young professionals who define themselves through hobbies, volunteering, or exercise are twice as likely as others to attribute importance to their job. They cheer on their friends and colleagues who take time for themselves or go backpacking in Europe. Resume gaps be damned. They answer yet another weekend email as their Peloton collects dust.
Stephanie McCarty is the chief marketing officer at Taylor Morrison, a real estate development company in Scottsdale, Ariz. She says, “I’m their biggest cheerleader for my peers who take their vacation and set up their Out-of-Office reply. But it’s so hard for me to do that.”
McCarty says that she dreams about being reincarnated into a yogi. She works 60 hours a week and takes yoga classes every Thursday night and Sunday morning.
A recent Wall Street Journal/NORC survey found that many young professionals are still fixated on success, even though they say they do not value hard work the same as their predecessors. Work-obsessed Twenty-and 30-somethings feel that they will not be able to achieve their goals if they do not chase success now.
Their careerism is unique because of their cohort’s general aversion to hustle. They feel guilty because their parents were proud of grinding. They find it difficult to reconcile their belief that you only live once with the need to work overtime to succeed at work.
Tennis time is here!
Catherine Smith Licari is the founder of a small business consulting firm named Cash Flow for Creatives. She carries a wallet card with “work-life-balance” emblazoned on it because she considers this to be one of her core beliefs.
Smith Licari is 34 and she’s thinking about signing up for tennis. She bought a tennis racket at the weekend, and thinks she will slow down in six months and have more free time to do non-work activities. She told herself that six months ago.
Ms. Smith Licari makes herself available at all times to her clients, even though she encourages her employees to disconnect and to avoid contacting them outside of office hours.
It’s possible that this is the price of being an entrepreneur, but even those with structured work hours admit they are unable to safeguard their personal time despite all efforts.
Ishani, a 26-year-old software developer in Chicago, is so dedicated to the concept of balancing work and life that she mutes notifications related to her job on her phone.
Send her an email or a Slack at 8 pm on Tuesday. She won’t be able to see it until after business hours when she opens her computer. The pings and the dings from round-the-clock notifications are gone, but work is still in her head.
She says, “I am able to set boundaries for my work hours but struggle with boundaries for my emotions.” My friends and I often talk about our jobs. We talk about work a great deal. We are under pressure to work and can’t find time to do other things.
Kejriwal, a daughter who immigrated to the United States, says that her parents sacrifices have pushed her towards professional success. Work is always at the forefront of her mind. She says that she still admires her peers who seem to be able to live a life of freedom, whether it is mentally or physically, by living the “vanlife”.
It’s all for show
Many people pretend to have a work-life equilibrium, other young professionals told. Some people pretend to have a balanced life by posting photos of themselves having fun on social media. In reality, however, they are just as consumed with their work as anyone else.
Josh Lospinoso is the 36-year old chief executive of Shift5. He says that he first learned about performative balance as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.
He says, “It’s the idea that you are a try-hard if you stay up late studying at night and not going to the pub. That’s not a good quality.”
He says that he sees this same dynamic in the workplace where it is cool to be young, successful and look good at your job but uncool to give everything you have to the job.
Daniel Zauderer is the executive director of Grassroots Grocery in New York City. He took a few days to hike through the Catskills. He says that in the fresh mountain air he had already planned the LinkedIn article about taking breaks, which he rarely does.
Mr. Zauderer ran a half-marathon last fall, but said that training was more of an extension of his work than a pastime. He ran the marathon to raise $60,000 for his nonprofit, which he founded in 2020 as a part-time side business while teaching sixth grade humanities in Bronx. He stopped teaching one year later, and put those hours into his nonprofit. He still has two full-time positions.
He sometimes wishes he was more like his peers, who either treat their work as a small part of their identity or pretend to.
He says, “There’s something in me that won’t let me do that.” “I envy those who can.”