For years we heard about how terrible Millennials are for the American workforce. Research suggested they’re lazy, disloyal to their employers and desperate for handouts.
Now it appears painting Millennials with one broad brushstroke isn’t quite accurate. A recent report by the AARP on Baby Boomer travel trends revealed a surprise finding about Millennials: they won't stop working, even when on vacation.
According to the study, which polled 1,728 individuals 20-years-old or older, 47% of Millennials (ages 20–36) believe it is "extremely" or "very important" to stay connected to work while on vacation, compared to just 33% of Generation X and 16% of Baby Boomers.
The study suggests that even those who don't believe staying connected is important may feel pressured into being on-call. Nearly three-quarters of Millennials expect to bring work along with them on a trip, compared to 65% of Gen Xers and just 56% of Baby Boomers. Another study, conducted by Wrike, the project management platform used by such companies as Airbnb, revealed similar findings. In their survey of 1,137 adults (between the ages of 18-64), 42% of Millennial respondents said they intended to work on vacation, while just 28% of Gen-Xers and Boomers did, collectively. So even when Millennials do make use of their vacation days, they feel more chained to their desks than other generations—even if that chain reaches all the way to Bali.
Why do Millennials work on vacation?
Numerous studies have shown that unplugging completely from work improves your quality of life and work performance. But despite the mental health benefits of detaching from work, Millennials continue to work while on vacation—for a variety of reasons.
The Digital Age
The digital age is likely the largest contributing factor. Baby Boomers grew up in a world where business was done face-to-face and cell phones were large enough to warrant their own carry-on luggage. Today you could conceivably join a Google Hangout from anywhere in the world as long as you have a good cellular service. For better or for worse, this increase in accessibility has led to an expectation of always-on availability, as well.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a side effect of the digital age. When there's more to see, there's more to miss, and Millennials are used to having the world at their fingertips. This has fueled a constant desire to remain abreast of the latest news, whether it's in the headlines or an email from the boss. "FOMO is a real thing amongst Millennials with the prevalence and exhaustive usage of social media," said Chad Rixse, co-founder of Millennial Wealth. "We quite literally become addicted to constantly being connected to the world around us and I think this holds true for work."
The Great Recession
The Great Recession hit right as many Millennials entered the workforce. It created a competitive job market, and in an era of layoffs—where taking a week off work was viewed as an unaffordable luxury—it shaped Millenials' views towards paid time off.
Love of the game
Finally, Millennials tend to like their work. Thanks to remote jobs, flexible schedules and meaningful, innovative side hustles, many Millennials don't mind doing a little work from the beach. In fact, they might even enjoy it.
"Millennials are more likely than other generations to have a side hustle," said Anna Liotta, author and founder of The Generational Institute, which provides businesses with in-depth training on the differences between the living four generations. "It provides intellectual stimulation or gives their life more meaning. The side hustle is so engaging that Millennials enjoy this work on their vacation.”
It may sound counterintuitive but getting a little work done on vacation might allow people to enjoy their time off more and to feel less stressed when they return to work. So maybe Millennials are onto something.