Published on 18th July 2017
The end of the school term is here and both my son and daughter have broken up from school already. It has felt like a long school year with a multitude of exams, after school clubs, homework, Saturday sports fixtures, play dates and life on top of that. My daughter has had the stress of the 11+ exams, followed by a nail biting, nervous wait to see if she would achieve a place at the school she wanted. Thankfully she did.
All the trials and tribulations of the past school year led me to start thinking about the immense pressure we are putting on future generations.
Children are judged on results from a very young age. They are under pressure to achieve exam results, get into the best schools, be the best at football/hockey/drama. They are expected to play a musical instrument, speak a foreign language (Mandarin has been a recent focus), to have the best birthday parties, to simply be the best at everything. Wow! What a great deal of pressure for children, I certainly don’t tick many of those boxes myself now!
It won’t be too long until this generation is ready to enter the workforce. If they are used to being under so much stress and pressure from a young age, how can we as business leaders ensure our future workforce don’t suffer from self-inflicted stress and burnout once they enter the workplace?
Thankfully, many companies have taken steps to address or improve health and wellbeing in the workplace, (and this is something I’m proud to say we take very seriously at Ambition) but are we doing enough?
Millennials and wellbeing
According to an article in Time Magazine, polls have shown that Millennials ‘want flexible work schedules’ more ‘me time’ and constant career advice and feedback from their managers. They have been classed as ‘Generation Me’.
An article in Time Magazine in May 2013 titled, ‘The Me Me Generation’ begins; ‘they are narcissistic. They’re lazy. They’re coddled. They’re even a bit delusional. Those aren’t just unfounded negative stereotypes about 80 million Americans born between 1980 – 2000. They’re backed up by a decade of sociological research.’
Having members of my team solidly entrenched in the millennial bracket, I find these kinds of negative statements interesting. In my own experience of working with millennials, I have found that they are more focused on work-life balance, they definitely ask for constant feedback but they aren’t only interested in positive feedback, they want constructive feedback that will help them improve.
Importantly, they take the time to focus on their health and wellbeing. They take better care of themselves than when my peers and I were a similar age. It’s no longer a badge of honour to work all the hours possible and to refuel between work with nights out and junk food.
Setting the example for generation Z
I can’t help but think that with so much pressure on children to constantly ‘achieve’, things seem to have gone full circle for my children’s generation, or ‘generation Z‘.
Thankfully, as another school year ends, they are now entering a well-deserved, unstructured summer break. An opportunity to take a break from everyday life, have fun with friends, get up late, laze in the garden and recharge their batteries.
For us adults who don’t fall into the ‘millennial’ category, I believe we can all learn from the millennials’ attitude to health and wellbeing. It’s all very well for companies to focus on wellbeing in the workplace but as both individuals and business leaders, we must practice what we preach.
This means continuing to work incredibly hard doing our jobs to the best of our ability but to also take the time outside of the work environment to relax and take good care of our health and wellbeing. Putting phones down occasionally, turning off social media, spending quality time with our friends and family, finding out what makes us happy and working towards achieving this. In doing so, we don’t just do service to ourselves, but set a positive example to others, especially the younger generations, that it’s ok to look after your mental and physical health.
Crucially, I believe we should let children be children and ensure that the next generation to enter the workforce is given the opportunity to be productive, happy and healthy both in and out of work. After all, stressed and burnt out employees are no good for business or employee morale, so I for one will continue to ensure that we do everything we can at Ambition to enable our employees to balance their work with a healthy approach towards their mental and physical wellbeing.
To find out more about some of our wellbeing initiatives at Ambition, click here >