While I was in Thailand I saw lots of young people with huge backpacks, set off to see the world. I had seen them before in different countries in Europe, but they were not so many and not so far from their homes. The first question that came into my head was how old were they? How come they are not in school or maybe at work? After a while I got my answer: they finished school and they took some time off before starting to work. I have to admit that I envy them. When I was their age I did not have the means nor the courage to travel the world.
You are probably wondering how I got my answer. While waiting for a ferry boat to take us from Koh Samui back to the main land, I overheard a conversation between a guy and two girls. All three matched the description above: young, western Europeans and carrying huge backpacks. They had just met and they started a conversation to get acquainted while waiting for the ferry. After discussing their journeys, where they were, what they saw and where they were going next, the guy asked the girls if they had decided what they wanted to do. At first I thought it was just a simple question about the next weeks or months. But the way the girls answered amazed me. From their answer, I realized it was not a simple question about the next few days or weeks, the question was about the rest of their lives. And from the way it was asked and how the girls responded, it seemed as if it was the question on everybody’s heads. It was as if they had left home to search for an answer to this question.
I do not remember having this dilemma at their age. At least for me, I took whatever job was available or the one that paid more. I did not have too many options. Things are different for the new generation, at least for the one in developed countries. It seems that they all know they have to do something with their lives, but they do not rush into decisions.
And, on a second thought, can you blame them?
Almost all of the available jobs mean spending more than ten hours per day at work (if we count the commute hours) doing activities that we seldom enjoy. And we do all this for a paycheck at the end of the month. We earn significantly more money than our parents or grandparents did, but are we happier? Do we have a better life than they did? For me, the quality of life is measured on how enjoyable our life is and not on the number of zeroes on our paycheck. If we compare the time our grandparents spent on ludic activities with the time we spend, I think we lose. Most of us have jobs we find boring but we do not want to quit them because they pay for our lifestyle. And we find ourselves longing for some free time and living from one week-end to the next and from one vacation to another.
From what I see, the younger generation is different. They have been raised differently, money is not an issue for them and probably it has never been. They were free from this burden as children and they continue to be free. Their main concern is not the paycheck but to live meaningful and enjoyable lives. They are neither lazy nor careless about their future, but they are not willing to put up with the actual working conditions. They are not willing to spend ten hours a day just for a check at the end of the month.
If we look a bit into our history, we see that each time the working conditions deteriorate in comparison with the previous generations; a change is on its way. You can see it in the young generation’s state of mind, and you can sense it even in our generation. I know many people my age that are not happy with their jobs; they want something more meaningful, something that should bring pleasure, not just a paycheck. The funny thing is that even the jobs we have now can become more meaningful and more enjoyable if the companies just put a little effort into it. Companies make a huge mistake by treating their employees as machines or as ill-intentioned beings that work only for material incentives. They are simply sitting on a gold mine they refuse to see and use. Putting their effort into something meaningful is the power that drives people to work, a motivator much more powerful than money.
I think the companies who will see this sooner, are going to be the winners of the future. They will have better prepared, more motivated employees who are willing to put their efforts into accomplishing the company’s objectives as long as they are aligned with their own objectives. And this might not be so difficult to achieve, if only we could pay some attention to it.
My trip to Thailand confirmed even more an idea that sprang in my head a few months ago. I would say it is more a feeling than an idea and my feeling is that in the next few decades we will see a revolution at the workplace.