Millennials - we’re the worst. The largest growing segment of the workforce is routinely classified in broad strokes. Some say we’re lazy, unreliable and entitled, others say we’re innovative, diverse and well-educated. While some of these are good and others bad, scientists agree that it’s all culminated into one thing: paramount levels of stress. Millennials are the most stressed out generation alive, and we don’t even have the shortest end of the stick. Our employers have been unceremoniously gifted with the task of keeping the unhappiest generation on earth satisfied! Luckily, I, a millennial, am here to help.
Let’s start with the facts. Millennials were raised with the belief that they can have anything they want. The number of non traditional media outlets, consumer products and career options are growing daily. The presence of options have changed the way millennials think, evaluate and select an option - or don’t. For example, one study showed that the more 401k options that millennials have directly correlated with their inability to choose one - many opting not to choose at all. The problem, however, is not that millennials have too many options, or that they feel entitled; the problem is knowing how to find a balance. We’ve got room for thousands of choices per day, but we forget to look for options to help reverse the effects of this mental and physical overstimulation.
Perhaps the most widely discussed subtopic of stress is financial wellness. Employers tend to ask things like, “Are these 401k packages going to help our people prepare for retirement?” or “Are we paying our employees enough?” Employees, on the other hand, are asking the all-too-familiar “How will I buy a house one day?,” “Can I even afford to retire?,” “How did I make it 20+ years without learning how to balance my budget?!” It’s no secret that financial stress has made it increasingly difficult for Americans to make ends meet. This has been going on for many years, so what makes millennials so special?
Well, let’s start with the fact that millennials have a lower earning potential than previous generations (when accounting for inflation). Pair that with the “always-on” model of today’s workforce, and we find ourselves being pulled to many extremes at once. It’s no wonder that over 50% of millennials reported in 2015 that they regularly couldn’t sleep because of stress. This outpaces the national average of 33% for all generations. Worse yet, 12% of millennials have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. That’s twice the level of baby boomers.
So what do we do?
Rather than fighting the tide, it’s time to adapt. Giving employees the freedom to take time out when needed is more powerful than any EAP will ever be (sorry to all EAP providers, we love you for trying). Unfortunately, EAPs tend to be reactive solutions; helping people after they’ve hit a wall. We need to provide people with proactive solutions before they reach their breaking point. That said, taking time out doesn’t have to mean unplugging for days at a time. There are plenty of tools that allow employees to set aside 5-10 minutes to relax, regroup and start fresh.
It’s safe to say that the vast majority of millennials adhere to a “knowledge is power” philosophy. According to Kleiner Perkins, the number one job benefit we seek is training and development.
Therefore, educating your young workforce to make informed decisions on the things that they’ll need for success (a 401k vs IRA, the best health insurance plan, work/life balance, etc.) is more important than ever. If you want to decrease stress and create a happier, more satisfied workforce, provide millennials with education and good options, just don’t provide them with all the options.
With the right planning and a more open, curious and nonjudgmental approach to young professionals, employers might also find out something new. Millennials - we’re the best. Or at least we want to be.