In a hyper-connected world where technology is deeply intertwined with our daily lives, the boundaries between work and personal life have become increasingly blurred. This shift has given rise to the concept of the “always-on” work culture, a phenomenon that particularly affects Generation Z and Millennials.
The Tech.co article “Always-On Workplaces Cause Stress” highlights the adverse effects of this work environment, shedding light on the significant challenges faced by younger workers. Using this as a take-off point, we’re highlighting the underlying causes of this stress and ways to alleviate its impact in today’s workforce.
The “Always-On” Work Culture
The advent of smartphones, constant connectivity, and remote work arrangements has resulted in a work culture that extends far beyond traditional office hours. Gen Z and Millennials find themselves in a situation where work-related emails, notifications, and expectations permeate their personal lives, creating an ongoing sense of being tethered to work. The article accurately points out the toll this takes on mental health, causing heightened stress levels and eroding the work-life balance these individuals strive to achieve.
Older workers (Baby Boomers and Gen X) may not be experiencing this as severely, as their work experience, early on in their careers, was to “leave the office” at the end of the day and not be tethered to their work. While they, too, are now subject to the “always on” habits of others, they’re accustomed to being in control of their hours. It may be easier for them to turn off the computer or ignore emails after hours.
Causes of Stress
The causes of stress for younger workers includes:
Increased Expectations – the idea of constant availability, imposed by the “always-on” culture, leads to unrealistic expectations from employers and clients. The pressure to respond instantly to messages and requests hampers their ability to disconnect, fostering a never-ending cycle of work and anxiety.
Lack of Boundaries – the blending of work and personal life blurs the boundaries that help maintain a healthy balanced life. Without defined limits, younger workers often struggle to prioritize their well-being, and engage in activities unrelated to work, such as spending time with family, pursuing hobbies, or engaging in self-care.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)- the fear of missing out on crucial information or opportunities creates an intense need by some younger workers to stay connected. This fear drives them to check their devices constantly, contributing to heightened stress levels.
Burnout Culture – the “hustle” mentality prevalent among younger generations adds another layer of stress. The pressure to constantly prove themselves, achieve professional success, and compete in a globally connected world creates an environment conducive to burnout.
Addressing the Issue
This is the state of the working world today, so addressing this new reality should be a priority for management. Here are some ways to combat the issues that arise in the “always on” work culture.
Promote Work-Life Balance – organizations should prioritize and actively encourage a healthy work-life balance by implementing policies that protect employees’ personal time. Encouraging employees to set boundaries, switch off notifications during non-work hours, and take regular breaks can significantly alleviate stress.
Flexible Work Arrangements – instituting flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours, empowers individuals to structure their work around their personal lives. This flexibility allows for better time management, increased productivity, and reduced stress levels.
Establish Communication Expectations – employers should establish clear guidelines on communication expectations outside of regular working hours. Setting realistic response timeframes can help individuals disconnect from work without fear of missing out or disappointing others.
Mental Health Support – organizations should prioritize mental health support, providing resources such as counseling services, mental health days, and training on stress management. This support acknowledges the toll of the “always-on” culture and fosters a more compassionate work environment.
The “always-on” work culture has introduced unique challenges for Generation Z and Millennials, resulting in heightened stress levels and an imbalance between work and personal life. However, by addressing the causes and implementing practical solutions, individuals and organizations can work together to mitigate the negative impacts of this cultural shift.
Striving for a healthier work-life balance, setting clear boundaries, embracing flexibility, and prioritizing mental health support are crucial steps toward alleviating the stress faced by younger professionals. Ultimately, it is only through concerted efforts that we can foster a healthier workplace and workforce.
Not sure where or how to begin addressing these types of issues in the workplace? Contact me and let’s talk.