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Millennials work far fewer hours than our parents – so why are we much more stressed?

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Anna Brech
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A new study has found that millennials enjoy far more freedom in the workplace than our parents. But conversely, we also feel like we’re under a lot more pressure

Author Danielle Steel recently hit the headlines for questioning the “millennial affliction” of burnout. The prolific romance novelist works 22-hour days and seemed shocked that twenty- and thirty-somethings want more balance and fun from their workplace.

“To me your twenties and a good part of your thirties are about working hard so that you have a better quality of life later on,” she remarked.

A new study has confirmed Steel’s suspicion that millennials work far less than prior generations. But there’s an important twist to the data: they also feel significantly more stressed than workers in years gone by.

Flexible fitness network Hussle grilled 1,500 people under the age of 45 about their work-life balance compared to that of their parents. 

The results paint a picture of a dramatically different working life;  86 percent of respondents claim to have more freedom than their parents did, and 85 percent say their working hours are more flexible. 

A further 30 percent say their mums and dads worked all the hours they possibly could, and a similar number recall that their parent had less opportunity to work from home than is available under today’s flexi-working culture.

A woman typing on her laptop
The study found technology was a major cause of 21st Century stress

Despite this, most of those questioned agree that their parents wouldn’t have known what the phrase “work stress” meant, as they were expected to just get on with things.

In comparison, the millennials questioned suffer a lot from work stress – even with less hours and greater freedom than before. 14 percent have had time off because of stress, and 12 percent have had to seek medical help. More than a quarter (28 percent) of workers feel stressed and anxious about work, and 21 percent have struggled to sleep because of it.

A large part of this problem appears to come down to the rapid onset of technology. Two thirds (65 percent) of respondents say they struggle to turn off their phone or laptop out of office hours. And an overwhelming 90% of people claim that there is more pressure on young people today to have the perfect body, career, relationship or life than there used to be – an expectation they feel is largely fuelled by social media.

There’s no easy answers here. But it’s clear that even with a 21st Century focus on wellbeing in the workplace, we are no less closer to achieving that value than in the days of a less flexible office culture.

To the contrary, we have been better off in an age where we worked longer hours but also simply clocked in and out – leaving professional demands firmly in one place. In addition, perhaps it’s time we all started taking it easy on ourselves, in a collective step away from the damaging myths of social media.

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.