The hidden side of the work from anywhere epidemic that millennials are falling for hook, line, and sinker.
The idea of working a 40-hour workweek can cause a 20 to 30 something-year-old to run kicking and screaming to the far ends of the earth. We get gag reflex just from the notion of clocking in at 8am on Monday morning, grabbing a biscuit during a specified lunch hour, and joining the mad rush of commuters back home at 5pm.
Then, rinse and repeat for four more days till the glorious mini-escape of the weekend rolls around.
I’ll admit, even writing about it makes me a little nervous and uncomfortable.
The monotony? Routine? Job security and benefits?
These are unwelcome and oddly foreign ideas to many young professionals.
A lot of it isn’t our fault but to a large degree, we’ve traded in familiarity and comfort for income insecurity and adventure because we’re the generation that’s redefining abundance, happiness, and what it is to be a dreamer.
We want our vocation to be our profession. They’re no longer mutually exclusive.
I know this first-hand. As an Industrial Chemistry graduate, I worked in a distillery before retiring the penguin suit for creative, freelance work. At the time, I might’ve been an anomaly but nowadays I’m not alone.
We scroll through enviable news feeds on Instagram of people in shorts and flip flops, staring at a beach sunset in an exotic location working on their laptop amidst the backdrop of a tropical holiday, living their best life.
A life that was once reserved and assumed could only be attained for 65-year-old retirees is now sought out by 25 year-olds with a laptop.
Previously, you had to work for at least a year at a new company to accumulate enough vacation days to take off for a week but that’s no longer an acceptable option for many.
We’ve become the generation that wants to have their cake and eat it too.
This movement caught my eye when my friends were changing their jobs and companies every one to two years. It seemed every time we met up, they were interviewing for a new position at a new company or were serving two week’s notice for their current employer.
We’ve realized that knowledge work doesn’t have to be done in a cubicle in a skyscraper. As long as we have a decent wifi connection, we can do (most) of our jobs anywhere. Those Monday meetings can be held over Zoom. We don’t really care for watercooler chat with our colleagues when there’s Slack. Added to that, the pandemic made this even more true as we were all forced to do our 9–5 work from home.
This applies to the rest of the workforce too — the freelancers and those who work in the gig economy. They can be Uber drivers anywhere so they’re location-independent. They can manage their Expertnaire affiliate business just as effectively from a beach in Oniru or a lounge in Abuja. They don’t want 21 vacation days a year, and leases that are difficult to break.
Freedom and mobility are more important than dental benefits.
However, most employees do prefer it.
Employees and employers are actively looking into how to integrate both ideals. We want to make our workday as enjoyable and efficient as possible.
Technically, yes, we can answer emails and have a Zoom conference call just as easily from physical office spaces as we can from a beach in Bali.
But it turns out the working from anywhere is not as simple as it’s made to be. In our pursuit of the laptop lifestyle, we might be doing more harm than good to our mental health and happiness in the long run.
Millennials were excited by the idea of traveling the world while still employed. — Havard Business Review
There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting the best of both worlds, especially if you can have them at the same time. It’s quite noble to want to make a significant and moral contribution to your work as well as having a good time as much as you can.
We’re the generation that’s inheriting a climate crisis to no fault of our own but just the negligence and irresponsibility of those before us. And it’s on us to fix it too. So some might feel justified, or even righteous, about their desire to experience it all before the Maldives disappears underwater or while African rhinos are still around.
Growing up with social media and the internet has only added to the growing desire to travel and work for a living. We’re addicted to the approval and vanity metrics from getting likes and followers. As a result, we’re doing what we can to chase it.
We’re feeding off content that’s inspirational and aspirational. When we see an old friend from high school post a glorious picture on a camel in the Jordan desert, the dopamine effect makes us want to make that a real experience in our lives too now. Even if it means we have to cut corners to make it happen.
The problem with this is that we often haven’t earned it and we’re becoming the generation that’s facing the consequences of unearned merit and too-much-too-soon syndrome. If we’re not #LivingMyBestLife online then we feel like losers, out of place, and like something is wrong with our chosen path.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The reality is that it isn’t particularly normal to land on a career that feels impactful and purposeful right away. Your entry-level, fresh-out-of-college job won’t be as impactful or purposeful as a global project manager of an NGO with 20 years of experience.
In a culture of instant gratification, this is a reality we haven’t accepted.
Social media exaggerates comparison culture and it only exacerbates our feeling like we should be founding the next million-dollar startup or backpacking through Asia with an e-commerce business.
The real consequences are how it affects our relationships and personal fulfillment. In our pursuit to live an aesthetically pleasing Kylie Jenner life, we’ve lost the ability to form deep, intimate relationships with one another and we’re too quick to jump ship when we’re not happy at work.
Author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek described how job satisfaction and strength of personal relationships is what we’re missing out on the most because there “simply isn’t an app for that”.
Sinek continues to describe how the idealism millennials live in is affecting their happiness. He says the antidote to that is patience.
What this young generation needs to learn is patience. Somethings that really matter like love, job fulfillment, joy, self-confidence… all of these things take time. Sometimes you can expedite pieces of it but hte overall journey is arduous and long. And difficult. — Simon Sinek
When we start to accept the toil and time it takes, we will be more content with the small, daily progress we’re making instead of wishing we were always further along already. We’d realize that the journey itself is satisfying and not the idealized destination that we were suckered into believing. We’d feel more satisfied and content with what we produce when years of hard work have been put into it.
It’s not about sacrificing fun for employment. It’s about appreciating that time and effort are vital elements for anything of value.
By all means, if you can work from anywhere and want (or need) to, then do it. If you can have your cake and eat it, go for it.
But don’t be fooled into thinking an ‘office’ on a holiday beach will provide you with deep joy and fulfillment. Simply changing your zipcode and shortening your work hours alone won’t give you the joy earned from fostering close relationships at work and a sense of achievement.
These are skill sets that need to be developed early on, over years of perseverance and learning how to form meaningful relationships with your friends and colleagues.
Impatience is a dream killer. Anything worthwhile takes time.