You only live once. First coined by the New York Times columnist Kevin Roose, the term ‘YOLO economy’ tries to make sense of what has become a classic post-pandemic phenomenon, one that is mainly affecting the Millennials and some Gen Z-ers (i.e. those born between 1981 and the early Noughties). Namely, the trend to turn their lives around by questioning the traditional concept of work.
The emotional impact of the pandemic on workers
A recent survey by Oracle set out to measure the impact of Covid-19 on psychological wellbeing in the workplace; it found that the pandemic has increased stress, anxiety and the risk of burnout among workers all over the globe. Some 70% of respondents (more than 12 thousand people including employees, managers, HR leaders and senior executives in 11 countries around the world) said that in the past twelve months their stress and anxiety levels have been higher than in any previous year. This has an extremely negative impact in terms of mental health, work-life balance and burnout.
Naturally, people have responded differently to this phenomenon across the generations. Boomers and Gen Xers have reacted by seeking to regain balance between their personal and work lives. Meanwhile, for Millennials and Gen Z workers it has brought more profound questions such as trust, engagement and flexibility to the fore.
Yes to flexibility, no to a permanent job
As Kevin Roose explains, the YOLO economy is leading younger people to reinvent their lives. The pandemic has had an impact on everyone, emotionally too. It has fanned anxieties about losing loved ones and jobs. All this is driving many millennials to reassess their priorities. Some are abandoning stable jobs to start a new business. After months in the grip of anxiety and exhaustion, risk seems to be the new mantra. Roose points out that all this is being helped along by rising vaccination rates, a recovering job market and bank accounts “fattened by a year of stay-at-home savings”.
You only live once, so you might as well go for it. This theory is backed by the New York Times’ estimate that 40% of workers under the age of thirty hope or intend to leave their current position, as they are increasingly emboldened to make major changes to their personal and working lives, embracing the new normal which is more flexible, authentic, sustainable, and often away from the big city.
What role can companies play?
Now more than ever before, the circumstances require companies to give their employees robust solutions to improve corporate wellbeing, work-life balance, inclusivity and flexibility. This means re-arranging the physical workplace and rethinking working hours; extending and regulating the use of remote working; investing in technological and digital solutions and, last but not least, offering an appealing value proposition that is capable of attracting, engaging and retaining the younger generations too.
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