Millennials experience most difficulties coping with Covid-19 workplace disruptions

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 - 15:15

A new study led by Prof Audra Mockaitis at Maynooth University’s School of Business, has found that Millennials are experiencing the most challenges in coping with workplace disruptions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The initial findings of a multi-part study led by Prof Mockaitis show that Millennials, aged 24 to 40 years, are having most difficulties balancing work and family or supervisory roles.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions to people’s work-related and general wellbeing, as remote working becomes the norm across workplaces. However, Millennials are reporting lower levels of wellbeing and greater overall stress than other generation groups during this period.

Millennials are experiencing significantly lower levels of vitality than other generations and significantly lower levels of wellbeing than their Baby Boomer colleagues, who are over 56 years, according to Prof Mockaitis and her research colleague, Dr Christina Butler of Kingston Business School at Kingston University.

The greatest differences in coping during the COVID-19 pandemic were between the Millennial and Baby Boomers generations. Millennials are experiencing high levels of burnout, significantly higher than Baby Boomers, despite usually receiving far higher levels of supervisor support than either Generation X, aged 41 to 55 years, or ‘Boomers’.

Prof Audra Mockaitis said: “What surprised us was that Millennials who are characterised as technologically savvy are actually having the hardest time coping with the pandemic. All of our respondents reported similar degrees of disruption to their lives as a result of COVID, but members of other generations, particularly ‘Boomers’, appear to be getting on with their lives better than Millennials, despite having relatively more responsibility.”

The initial findings indicate that Millennials may need more attention from supervisors, and more support and encouragement. However, the nature of remote working patterns during this period often means supervision is less available to them.

Speaking on the implications of this research for work practices, Dr Christina Butler of Kingston Business School at Kingston University said: “If organisations are to move successfully from Covid-19 to the ‘new normal’, they need to respond to this leadership paradox where supervisors are more needed by Millennials, yet are less available.”

These initial findings comprise the first part of a Longitudinal Study and were based on online surveys of 422 employees in 41 different countries, conducted by the School of Business at Maynooth University and Kingston Business School. The survey can be accessed at: Coping during the Pandemic: What a difference a generation makes.

The Millennial generation born from 1981 to 1994 is the largest generation in modern history to enter the workforce, and this generation is now moving into and up the ranks of middle management.

Some major studies of the generational makeup of the global workforce, pre-Covid, have found that Millennials may struggle comparatively more than other generations as they move toward or take up management positions. They have also found that more Millennials seek stability, structure and clarity in the workplace -- features of traditional hierarchical organisations that are generated by centralised decision-making, well-defined responsibilities, and significant management oversight. Additionally, Millennials tend to seek work-life balance, including flexible working hours and immediate gratification, unlike work-centric Baby Boomers. These requirements have led to workplace difficulties in retaining Millennials.

“The authors of these studies have argued that Millennials from around the world may struggle comparatively more than other generations as they move toward or take up management positions. Our findings seem to reflect this analysis,” Prof Mockaitis concluded.

This report outlines some of the preliminary findings of a multi-part and multi-period study being conducted by the authors during the COVID-19 pandemic, entitled “New Ways of Working and the Illusion of Flexibility”. This report focuses on the first data collection wave of the first study in the series. Further information on the first findings can be accessed at: Coping during the Pandemic: What a difference a generation makes and additional detail of the initial study findings and measurements can be found here.

The report focused on qualitative insights relating to the online workplace of three distinct generations – Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers, with the survey undertaken across 41 countries, during April and May. The researchers received 422 responses to an online survey sent during the months of April and May, on work-related issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sample comprised 65.4% from Anglo countries and 34.6% from non-Anglo countries. 61% of respondents were female and 39% male, 76% were employed full-time, and all but 12% had a formal university qualification. In terms of age, the mean age of our sample was 45.9 years.