When Ariel Coleman quit her last job as a project manager in the corporate office of a bank, it wasn’t because her new employer had
offered her a raise, a different role or more seniority.
“The work-life balance is just much better,” she said.
At her new company, everyone works from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays at whatever hours they choose. Coleman can go for a
run or walk her dog.
At the bank, she said, people judged her for taking all her paid time-off. At her new workplace, it is encouraged, which is why she didn’t
mind answering work emails while sitting by the fire on a recent camping trip.
“A client calls me at 8pm and I’m happy to talk to them, because that means the next day at 10am, I can take my dog to the vet. It
enables me to make my career more seamless with my life,” she said.
Many of Coleman’s friends have chosen their jobs for similar reasons, she said. “That’s how millennials and Gen Z-ers are playing the
game. It’s not about jumping up titles, but moving into better work environments,” she said. “They’re like silent fighters, rewriting policy
under the nose of the boomers.”
For many, work has become an obsession, and long hours and endless striving something to aspire to. It has caused burnout,
unhappiness and gender inequity, as people struggle to find time for children or passions or pets or any sort of life besides what they do for
But increasingly, younger workers are pushing back. More of them expect and demand flexibility, such as paid leave for a new baby and
long time-off, along with daily things such as the ability to work remotely, come in late or leave early or make time for exercise or
The rest of their lives happens on their phones, not tied to a certain place or time; why should work be any different?
Today’s young workers have been called lazy and entitled. Could they, instead, be among the first to understand the proper role of work
in life – and end up remaking work for everyone else?
It is still rare for companies to operate this way and the obstacles are bigger than any company’s HR policies. Some older employees may think new recruits should suffer the way they did, and employers benefit from having always-on workers.
Even those who are offering more flexibility might be doing it because unemployment is so low and they’re competing for workers.
Also, it is a luxury to be able to demand flexibility in the first place. Those who can, tend to have university degrees and white-collar
careers and can afford to take a pay cut in exchange or be highly selective about their jobs.
Still, there are signs that things could change for more workers. Some large and influential companies have recently begun talking about the need to shift from prioritising shareholders to taking care of their employees too. As more millennials become bosses and more job seekers demand a saner way to work, companies will have no choice.
“They have proved the model that you don’t need to be in the office 9 to 5 to be effective,” said Ana Recio, the executive vice-president
of global recruiting at Salesforce, a tech company. “This generation is single-handedly paving the way for the entire workforce to do their
jobs remotely and flexibly.”
Written by Claire Cain Miller & Sanam Yar for The New York Times.