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Evolution of the “Work-Life Balance” Across Generations

You’ve probably heard of the term “work-life balance” and likely aspire to have a healthy one. For many, being able to successfully manage your work and life is easier said than done, especially in the wake of shifting company priorities, economic uncertainty, and the breakdown of the lines between professional and personal life.

But today’s view of the work-life balance is different from those who worked before us and will likely differ from those who will work after us.

Here’s a quick timeline of generational views of the “work-life balance”:

The Silent Generation (1925-1945) and Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

  • Work-life balance does not exist.

  • Strong commitment to employer and work, even if it means more stress.

Gen X (1965-1979)

  • Work is still a priority, but there are less life-long commitments to a single company.

  • Witnessing the effects of downsizing on Baby Boomers, Gen X strived to reinvent the workplace by making it less formal and more experimental in nature.

  • The demands of a work-life balance were in its early stages.

Millennials (1980-1994)

  • Work-life integration, not balance.

  • Very similar to Gen X, but differ in that they have integrated their work into their personal lives. The lines between professional and personal are gone.

    • Crafting careers in the gig economy and pursuing multiple part time/ flexible work arrangements to explore different paths in an attempt to find their purpose.

Gen Z (1995-2012)

  • Moving away from work-life integration in pursuit of work-life options.

  • Identity is still developing and similar to Millennials, but have more stable and practical aspirations in addition to “side hustles” (side projects that could one day generate revenue).

With this timeline in mind, it is important to recognize that our understanding of work-life balance will continue to evolve until workers get what they have always wanted: autonomy over their lives and their work.

This is why Chris DeSantis (an independent organizational behavior practitioner, speaker, podcaster, and author) says we need to move beyond the notion that work is something we do for a paycheck and life is everything in between.

“When work is engaging, it is life-affirming”

- Chris DeSantis

Here at Spark This Day, we understand that everyone defines "work-life balance" differently. If you want to prioritize work, that’s okay. But we also understand that as you focus more on work and less on yourself, you get drained (or experience burnout).

This is why we want to support you on your wellness journey on your own terms. At Spark This Day, you can set intentions and goals for yourself each month and we’ll be with you every step of the way.

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