The blurred lines between work and life characteristic of this generation can be difficult for their parents to understand and are not always clear to the young women and young men, either.
Virtual work in particular raises questions. If your days are as long or short as you want them to be, how do you know when you’re done with your job? How do you keep from watching TV or taking a nap?
“At first my mom found it hard to believe that I was working for a real organization,” Cristol says. “Mentally I don’t separate the two [life and work]. My job is my passion. I think of it when I get up in the morning and on the weekends.”
She guesses she spends 21
2 hours on the phone each working day and the rest of the time on e-mail, reading and writing reports. She says she puts in 45 hours a week, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 or 6 p.m., although the night before our talk, she worked until 10:30.
She eats dinner regularly with her husband but often is back on the computer at least for a little while after dinner. She travels about once a month to school districts.
To do what she does, she has to be a self-starter, well organized and responsible to a company whose employees she rarely sees. That wouldn’t be attractive for those of us whose enthusiasm is stoked by being around people at work: sharing ideas, getting direction, building alliances, telling jokes, consoling or being consoled, even complaining about the boss and the printer that’s on the fritz.
As one father of a millennial says: “They seem happy with a collegiality of one. Just thinking about working that way makes my stomach seize up.”
Of course, Cristol is with people most of her workday — on the computer or her smartphone. She may in fact connect with more people in one day than many of us do. But is that the same as face time?
One morning in September, colleague Phil Gonring calls Cristol to discuss an assignment. As they talk, Cristol scans a calendar on her computer screen that she shares with colleagues on another project. “I’m mindful I have a conference call at 11,” she tells Gonring, “and I know we talked about needing this by the end of today.”
As she waits for the conference call, Cristol notes that she is working on a separate assignment for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “that could take all my time if I let it.”