What's a Connected Millennial to Do?

I promise this isn't a "How Millennials killed..." thought piece. Though we do have one or two of those if you're in the market.

There sure are a lot of declarations floating around out there about them. Some are true, some are not, most lie somewhere in the middle, and almost all of them stem from some variation on the theme of "here's how they are different than [insert other generational here]."

To your potential surprise, I’m not here to convince you that the overwhelming perception that Millennials are more obsessed with technology than other generations is debatable. Or to dissuade you of the perception that many young Americans can’t seem to extract themselves from the grip of their smartphone. Nor am I here to drop a list of clickbait statistics like how Millennials check a screen more than 150 times per day (see what I did there?). 

But what I do have to discuss is how this digitally native generation’s habits of connectivity can have real, tangible costs for both Millennials and the people and companies that they work for.

First of all, it’s important to contextualize what we're talking about. According to the recently released Project: Time Off research report The Tethered Vacation, Millennials, in some ways, mimic the behavior and tendencies of the generations that precede them. When we surveyed more than 2,500 American workers on if they’d feel more comfortable taking time off of work if they could connect to the office, we discovered only small differences between Millennials (77% more comfortable), Generation X (82%), and Boomers (75%).

The lesson: No matter how “obsessed” with technology they may or may not be, every generation finds it much easier to recharge if they have a lifeline to the daily grind. And across the board, we all need to get better at taking time off (hello 662 million unused days). 

But where we did discover some generational differences was in how that discomfort with disconnection manifests.

In the case of connectivity, there is a significant difference between young and older workers when it comes to the matter of perception. Millennials reported being far more susceptible to consider the negative impacts that time away from work could have, like their boss seeing them as less dedicated, less committed, and worthy of less compensation. Add to this the fact that employees consider their boss as the primary influencer over their time—even more than their own family—and you have the equation for some serious generational problems.


How we manage the desire to keep the world at our fingertips with the fact that the Millennial cohort often contends with unique challenges like vacation shaming, gender pressures, and work martyrdom can be tricky. So what can we do now to set the scale between personal connectivity and professional conviviality? For starters, acknowledging it: even realizing that a more connected worker can be a more stressed worker is a good first step. Once that's happened, you can build a supportive work culture that provides benefits that last. Nearly half (47%) of employees in supportive cultures say that they like to check in only occasionally while on vacation, which leads to less burnout. Moreover, younger workers who feel supported are far less likely to look for a new job in the next year.

It's time to be more thoughtful about how we stay connected when we're out of the office. After all, our ever-growing fixation with technology isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

October 17, 2017