The holiday guilt of millennials

Working late at the office more often than not
By Generation Y'er, Alex Burden, Student Blog

12 June 2017

Cyberslackers. Does it feel like that tagline fits with the millennial generation? Time and time again, there are complaints and jokes about, and at the expense of, Generation Y, who are portrayed as selfie-obsessed, self-entitled “cyberslackers”: research now shows that the complete opposite is true.

In a 2015 BBC article, Ronald Alsop wrote that “while electronic interruptions disturb people of all ages, millennials are more tightly tethered to their computers and phones, obsessively checking texts, emails and social media sites. 

"These distractions are shortening attention spans and making it difficult for young people to concentrate and stick with demanding assignments at school and work.”

The article pointed to research that found millennials are more likely to report that their productivity suffers at work because of smartphone distractions and cyberslacking.

Hey, you might have picked up Pokemon Go once or twice, or ordered food for delivery from the takeaway around the corner when it’s raining and cold, but does this really translate to a non-hardworking ethic?

The truth is out there

A 2012 survey by Generation Opportunity of 1,000 Generation Y individuals in America found that economic situations led 43% of respondents to reduce food costs, and 40% skipped holidays. This also extends to 38% delaying purchasing a home and 31% who postponed starting a family.

24% of millennials did not take their full holiday entitlements compared to 19% of Generation X.

A more recent survey by Project: Time Off and GfK identified that Generation Y are less likely to use their holidays – 24% of millennials did not take their full holiday entitlements compared to 19% of Generation X and 17% of Baby Boomers. They were also more likely than other generations to agree with the following statements:

  • “No one else at my company can do the work while I’m away.”
  • “I want to show complete dedication to my company and job.”
  • “I don’t want others to think I am replaceable.”
  • “I feel guilty for using my paid time off.” 

Does this sound like you? In contrast, the generalised view across popular culture is one of virtual zombies; only content to spend their working hours on Facebook when, in fact, over one in four Generation Y individuals are in management positions, and spend considerable amounts of time at their job.

Sarah Green Carmichael wrote on the issue for Harvard Business Review, and highlighted that the findings were shocking: “We may be setting a new workplace norm, one where time off truly isn’t valued… about half of Millennial managers said that company pressure kept them from approving employee’s requests for time off, compared with only a third of older managers.”

A tale as old as time

So, what is it? Are we cyberslackers, or workaholics? Some of the notions can merely be attributed to age differences; even ancient Greek philosophers were musing on the ‘terrible’ attitudes of younger people:

“The children now love luxury; they had bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise,” said Socrates.

Katie Denis, Senior Project Director of Project: Time Off attributed technology as one of the reasons for spending so much time at work, or working: “This is the first totally connected generation,” said Katie. “From the day they came into the workforce they’ve had email. They’ve never really left a physical place and said, ‘OK I’m done for the day.'”

We know our CA Students are some of the most hardworking individuals out there; juggling a job, a training position, and studying.

The knock-on effect of declining budgets has helped to spur overtime hours due to the fear that individuals could lose their job, which is understandable given that this generation has suffered recessions in the early 80s, early 90s and of course, the Great Recession in 2008.

What is known, however, is that productivity can begin to suffer if an individual does not take enough breaks or rest periods – and they need to do this with the support of older generations who have been touting the 'cyberslacker' sobriquet. 

Next time you hear that Generation Y is all that’s wrong with the world...

Just remember: not much has changed in the attitudinal differences between older and younger generations for thousands of years, and the economy continues to apply enormous amounts of pressure to the workforce.

We know our CA Students are some of the most hardworking individuals out there; juggling a job, a training position, and studying: we know that you’re giving 110%, 25 hours a day – just remember to take a break now and again like everyone else!


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