Commerce Matters: Managing the modern era of work-life balance (Voices)

Ann Silver is CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce.

Ann Silver is CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce.

Being an employer working with a younger team, I’ve come to see the error of my ways: for too long, in fact my entire career, I put work first.

I was told by my father to be “the first one in the office and the last one out” and assumed that my long hours at the desk, managing people, putting out fires, meetings and making decisions were all part of the job, and every career move would require no less than 10 hours each day.

Some workdays bled into weekends, vacations were put on hold or spent sitting on a beach with my laptop, feeling anxious about being away from my office. Who knew that younger employees would bring a completely different orientation to work, equipped to balance their own self-interests with workplace demands?

Well, the time has come and we’re now dependent on an evolving generation that has reckoned with work/life balance and decided that one should not exist without the other.

Conversations have shifted from approved time off to negotiations for less time in the office and decisions that involve whether a home office is more productive than one paid for by the employer.

Twenty-something employees have figured out that work is just one element of their lives and other pursuits and values must come first or at least be as relevant as the job. And I can’t disagree.

I’ve put off enrolling in a journalism course, learning to bake, getting another dog, and staying committed to Pilates in order to be the last one standing (or sitting) at my desk. And my father is long gone, having passed shortly after his retirement, never having sought out personal hobbies or outside interests.

I still believe that work is an integral part of my identity, my self-worth, and my reason for staying challenged and alert. I’m excited by the opportunities for learning, the problem solving, and the teamwork, none of which I’d be satisfied without.

But for those companies looking to hire and retain the youngest of our critical workforce, be prepared to be flexible, to accommodate the vicissitudes of each employee’s relationship to work, to recognize that creativity and productivity are not always correlated to desk time, and that effective management may require new ways of motivating younger professionals who will fill our shoes in no time.

“Commerce Matters” is a monthly Voices column authored by Ann Silver, CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at


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