Life

The unhealthy truth about that “snowflake” millennial trope

Posted by
Anna Brech
Published
A woman at work looking stressed

Lazy, privileged, entitled? A new study flies in the face of insulting millennial tropes, by showing they are the people most likely to work through sickness. 

The widely-held stereotype of “snowflake” millennials is not only pejorative – it’s also inaccurate, as a new study shows.

Millennials are the age group most willing to dig deep and turn up sick at work, according to eye-opening research from global staffing firm Accountemps.

Data from 2,800 US employees questioned about their work habits found that those aged 25 to 40 are the most likely to plough through sickness and tough it out in the office while unwell. 

You may also like

Why going to work sick is our unhealthiest obsession yet

Nearly half (40%) the respondents in that age category said that they always made it into the office when they were poorly. 

This figure outweighed response rates for younger workers aged 18 to 24, and also those aged over 41 and 55: less than a third of whom regularly worked through sickness in each category. 

The research also showed that Phoenix, San Diego and Miami are the US cities where professionals feel the most pressure from their boss to be present when sick.

A woman in bed
Sick? You're much better off claiming a duvet day

While millennials are to be admired for their stoicism, the study is hardly good news in a 24/7 working culture still governed by an unhealthy tendency to presenteeism

Employees who admitted to regularly working through a cold or the flu said they do so because they have too much work on their plate (54%); or because they don’t want to use up sick time (40%).

But battling through sickness not only runs the risk of making it worse; it’s also a habit that will exacerbate the very stress that people are trying to manage by turning up. This, in turn, leads a real danger of burnout.

You may also like

Burnout and workplace stress: “I didn’t realise I was suffering from burnout – until I was made redundant”

The problem is, skipping work because of sickness is still viewed as a sign of weakness in many (unenlightened) work environments; an indication that the person in question is somehow not pulling their weight. 

“I hate calling in sick, I see it as failure,” one unnamed employee said, when asked by Stylist why she dragged herself into work with a freshly broken elbow. “The doctor was happy to sign me off, but I just thought people at work would think I was shirking as I’m right-handed.”

Also, at a time where we’re bombarded with deadlines and demands, and routinely work longer hours than ever before,  taking time off often seems like something that will create more hassle than it’s worth in lost hours.

As one finance manager in her 30s – the exact millennial bracket that works through sickness – says: “When there’s always too much work, taking recuperation time feels a bit pointless – it usually means going back to worse.”

A tired woman at work
Taking time off can create more hassle than it's worth

As the authors of this most recent study point out, it’s up to managers to disrupt damaging attitudes towards office sickness, and pave the way to a healthier, more balanced working culture.

“Bosses should set an example by taking time off when they’re under the weather,” says Michael Steinitz, senior executive director of Accountemps. This includes “encouraging employees to do the same and offering those with minor ailments the ability to work from home”.

Until they do, that idyllic Danish model of strict 4pm home times and prioritised room to rest remains but a pipe dream. 

Images: Getty

Topics

Share this article

Author

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.

Recommended by Anna Brech

Careers

Suffering from career FOMO? Here’s what to do about it

It’s the busiest day of the year for job searches, which means it’s also the perfect time to reassess your career goals.

Posted by
Lydia Smith
Published
Life

“Burnout isn’t sudden – it’s like death by a million cuts”

It’s time we understood the implications of this life-changing condition.

Posted by
Alicia Lutes
Published
Long Reads

Could the ancient Bhutanese art of ‘death recollection’ be the burnout cure we all need?

Suffering from the symptoms of burnout? The art of death recollection could have surprising benefits…

Posted by
Sophie Cockett
Published
Careers

Golden rules of work happiness from Europe’s female tech leaders

From nap rooms to therapists and no overtime

Posted by
Anna Brech
Published
Lucy Mangan

“Word to your boss – this overtime has to stop”

Why we should all work less hard

Posted by
Lucy Mangan
Published