National Edition

Millennials plan to trade kids for careers — but it doesn't have to be that way

Published: Sunday, March 16 2014 2:40 p.m. MDT

While not every woman has the freedom or financial ability to stay at home full time, Bean knew that's where she always wanted to be.

In one 2012 study, Pew Research Center found that 47 percent of mothers said their ideal situation would be to work part time. Only 32 percent said full-time work would be ideal.

Bean worked full time at Google for two years, first in Ann Arbor, Mich., then in Boston. But after she and her husband, Devin, had baby Peter, even accommodating managers, lengthy parental and baby-bonding leave, and on-site child care wasn't enough to convince her to work a full eight-hour shift.

Now that Peter is 1, she's considering starting a master's degree part time, or perhaps looking for part-time work, but whatever she does, she'll make sure it supports the family balance they've come to enjoy in this season of their lives.

"I know that my husband very much appreciates me being able to be home," says Bean, 25, who lives in Chantilly, Va. "What it means is that all of the time that we're able to be together is family time, and we're not focusing on grocery shopping...or on a lot of daily tasks...we're spending time with each other which makes it a lot less stressful, which is nice."

FINDING FLEX

In addition to support for large life-changing events, like having children, more employees, especially Millennials want "greater freedom, more fun and greater control over their time," says Friedman.

They're pushing back against a culture of "overwork" with its 70-80 hour work weeks and the unspoken rule that an individual has to sacrifice their family to succeed in their career.

In 1969, couples ages 25-54 worked an average of 56 hours a week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2000, couples together averaged 67 hours.

Trying to reverse that trend, BambooHR, which provides online HR software, has a company-wide policy of no more than 40-hour work weeks.

"The reality is (overwork) is so much of our world today," says Ryan Sanders, 38, BambooHR's COO. "You feel like, 'If I can just get a couple more things done, tomorrow's going to be great.' You could say that everyday. There's no end to the work to be done."

Instead of offering financial incentives for overwork, super fun workspaces that encourage mid-day breaks, or incredible benefits packages, BambooHR simply tells its 70 employees, many of whom are Millennials, to stay focused, work hard and then go home.

Turns out this policy isn't just good for employee morale and work/life balance.

The company, founded in 2008, has already seen triple-digit growth in revenue, particularly in the last 12 months, Sanders said.

At PwC, where by 2016, 80 percent of its workforce will be Millennials, the audit and assurance, consulting and tax services firm is piloting in two locations a "10+2" program where individuals can choose to work 10 months of the year and take off two for a slightly reduced salary.

Employees can also create their own flexibility plans within teams, outlining what they want their days and weeks to look like during lengthy and often stressful projects.

"In order to succeed in the business, we need to embrace change and be flexible with our employees and figure out what's important to them," says Ryan Dent, a Salt Lake City-based PwC assurance partner.

And when employees get time off, whether for maternity or paternity leave, or just "getting home early one night to recharge, we find our people's performance really improves," Dent said.

Down in Texas, Reynolds works full-time from home, which means that she and Jack, now 10 months old, get to enjoy unrushed time together in the morning before she walks him to day care, and then heads home to tackle her writing projects. By 4:30 p.m., she's back with Jack and can push off any extra work till he's asleep, being both the dedicated employee and devoted mother she wants to be.

"That's what I'm advocating for," Friedman says, "Trying to affect policy, both at the social policy level, public policy level as well as in companies. It makes sense for our economy to have healthier people living lives ... they want to live."

sisraelsen@deseretnews.com

Stewart Friedman's seven policy changes so American workers can have kids:

1. Provide world-class child care

2. Make family leave universally available

3. Revise the education calendar

4. Support portable health care

5. Relieve students of burdensome debt

6. Display a variety of role models and career paths

7. Require public service

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