––Are we driving our Millennials into a collective burnout?

By now we’re all really familiar with the “lazy Millennial” narrative. And as much as I’d like to see it flip, I’m afraid there’s another, equally damaging narrative that’s on the rise, and it sits at other end of the spectrum…

According to a recent article in the New York Times, the popularised “Thank God It’s Monday” era is dictating our Millennials in the workplace hustle themselves sick to prove they’re totally engaged to making a living.

It has me wondering, are we allowing our largest group of the workforce to burnout before our very eyes? And how can we change this?

It seems the backlash to the lazy Millennial rumour, has seen our Generation Y work to standards that are actually not good for them. This includes the belief that they should switch on early and switch off never.

And apparently working proverbial asses off for a company is not enough anymore, Millennials are also being made to believe they need a side-hustle too. A small business project, an investment portfolio, a vested interest in their work that goes beyond the standard 9-5. With all these expectations, we’ve been quietly driving this generation into a collective burnout. Is this hustle-harder mentality a healthy workplace culture, or a high-speed highway to failure?

It’s no secret, Millennials are natural entrepreneurs, but does that mean we should be taking advantage of this and expect they hustle their way out of a healthy work/life balance before they feel as though they are achieving anything?

It is our responsibility as leaders to coach our Millennials away from this hustle-over-health mentality, and that begins by setting an example. As leaders, we need to coach teams to know when to switch off and how important work-life balance is for productivity and mental health.

What I fear is happening however, is too many have been tainted by the Millennial myths of “Millennials are disengaged”, and we fight back by giving them no time to actually switch off––which is vital. Why do we expect our employees to be on call 24-7?

Once upon a time––not so long ago, really–– a person would finish work and head home and do life. Late night emails, Whatsapp messages and social media nudges weren’t a thing, and while the house phone may have rung out through the house if a real emergency was going down, it would be entered into with apologies.

Not now. Employees are expected to respond instantly to their bosses, reply to emails, keep watch on social media channels and basically never switch off. In fact, it would be better if you just didn’t leave the office anymore, please.

I wish I were exaggerating.

In 2015 Google famously introduced free employee perks such as on site gyms, doctors, massage & dry-cleaning services––even an on site hairdresser for emergency bang trims. The company perks were sold to us as a means to promote wellbeing, seeing that staff get all their services covered and attended to inside work hours so they had nothing outside work to worry about.


It’s a nice gesture, but really, you need to leave work to do good work. It’s been proven, the longer you put in to your workweek does not necessarily equate to higher productivity or better-quality work.

The things that do aid great work are acknowledgement, financial remuneration and most importantly, understanding the values of your employees––especially when many of their values revolve around work/life balance.

Where did the hustle-culture come from?

So who started the toil glamour is sexy myth? Where did this unrealistic idealogy come from? One of the most notable toil glamour representatives, Generation Xer, Elon Musk is in the front seat, driving this idea and has been since the turn of the century.

Billionaire, Musk, once said on Twitter,

“Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.”

Maybe Elon, but 120 hours is not a healthy alternative. Just like the 40-hour week, which was created by another generation, is not really relevant anymore, this idea of the hustle hard or go home is losing its shine too.

At what cost is glorifying “personal profit” in the form of titles and perks effecting actual sustainable productivity? And should we expect to be able to dangle fancy titles and on-the-job perks in front of Millennials at the expense of remuneration for an honest day’s work––an honest day, being within the 40hr work week?

Toil Glamour is actually not sexy. It’s unproductive and unsustainable. And it’s not the best way to engage our Millennials in the workplace. The idea our Millennials care more about titles and perks in their job than they do about a work/life balance, their health, or a decent remuneration is ridiculous and my research has proven it.

Some facts from my first of its kind survey into Australian Millennials in the Workplace:

• 72% of Millennials are more motivated by pay than job title
• 64% of Millennials identify work-life balance as a key factor when choosing an employer
• 52% of Millennials don’t value free food/drink as a key motivator

With wellbeing and productivity at the forefront of our organisation’s interests, are these Elon-esque workplace cultures being pushed on Millennials good or bad for us as a whole?

The idea we should be “on” all the time, feeling guilty if we do anything outside of our work that’s not related in some way to our work. It’s crap. And it’s dangerous––to productivity and to our health. Nobody ever did any good work from the grave.

A recent Australian survey revealed that this high engagement, open plan offices and lack of face to face interactions in the workplace is having a really negative effect, and in some cases, driving Millennials to burnout. Professor Michael Leiter, at the head of the study believes that between 5 and 7 per cent of the workplace are currently affected by burnout––identifying three key traits of the syndrome: chronic exhaustion, cynicism and an overall sense of discouragement.

Excessive stress, fatigue, insomnia, heart disease, high blood pressure is just a few more symptoms of burnout that have been identified by medical practitioners; and these things cannot be fixed with a fancy title or a free brunch basket.

Dr Leiter along with 2 other colleagues involved in the study identified several factors in today’s Millennial workplace that maybe causing a collective burnout—lack of job stability, large workloads with fewer resources and the slow destruction of work-life balance.

It’s time we protected our teams from heading in this direction.
It’s time for us to flip the unhealthy hustle-hard or go home culture and replace it more switched-on work hours, and more switched-off life-outside-work hours. And replace the pointless perks with acknowledgement, values and a realistic pace.

Nobody ever changed the world from inside an incubator!