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Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

I can remember my parents’ generation complaining about us Baby Boomers, “They’re just long-haired layabout hippies”, “who’ll never amount to anything, because they’re always listening to their transistor radios and going to discos”.

And now I hear my generation moaning about Millennials. Saying they don’t want to work hard like we do, and are always on their phones and electronic equipment.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose” as the saying goes. Nothing really changes!

Yet the Millennials and post-Millennials (as the newest entrants to the workforce are now called), are just working differently, not necessarily less efficiently or less effectively.

So, as we Baby Boomers approach or reach retirement, let’s consider that we are not only leaving things in the hands of those who work differently to us but also leaving them in what I believe are very safe hands.

I would even go so far as to say that my kids’ generation have more to complain about in the way we have husbanded the world in our time. They are forecast to be the very first generation to be poorer than their parents. I know in most of Europe and North America they find it far more difficult than their parents, if not impossible, to buy their own home. Yes, some are lucky enough to be able to borrow from ‘The Bank of Mum & Dad’ – almost unheard of when my cohort started on the property ladder. But in what sort of state are we leaving ‘The World’? Millennials are far more environmentally conscientious than my generation have been and I can only hope and pray they can recover from the mess we have created.

Many of the Millennials in my team at the office leave promptly at ‘close of play’, 5pm.  Can we blame them for not being inclined to work additional unpaid hours?  Why do I feel obliged always to be one of the first to arrive and last to leave? If I can’t do what is required of me in the allotted time, maybe I am over-burdened with unrealistic expectations, or I am not as efficient as I should be.

It’s a generalisation, I know, but us Boomers do appear to spend extra hours in our offices even after we’ve completed the work we needed to.  What for? Are we needlessly finding extra work, doing just that bit more?

Surely saying “I have done everything I need to do today, completed all the tasks I should and am confident I will reach all my targets on time.  So, now I’m going home to enjoy life”, is a much better attitude?

During tax or audit season, or whichever time-sensitive equivalent your particular role has, then perhaps you will need to work extra hours to ensure deadlines are met. But, when those periods are over, remember why you worked so hard. It was to ensure you met the needs of your clients, fulfilling your commercial and ethical obligations to them and your employers. Now, I would argue, you have just as moral an obligation to your family and yourself to rest and recuperate.  And not just for more work, but also for more living.

Work-life balance is not a myth. But life and family are more important. I applaud conscientious and hard-workers and I too have the so-called ‘Protestant work ethic’ in my blood, but work should not be your life.

On behalf of the Baby Boomers – who, to quote a UK Prime Minister, “never had it so good” – I can only apologise to Millennials and post-Millennials for the unintentional outcomes of our seemingly hedonistic approach to life. Maybe my parents’ generation was right, and it was my generation that should have woken up to our excesses far sooner than we did.

Us ‘Boomers used to say, “make Love, not War”. Today I’d suggest “enjoy Work, but enjoy Life more”.

Græme Gordon, Executive Director, Praxity

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