I was talking with a pharmacist and a seasoned oncology nurse – both Baby Boomers – and we were discussing the presence of multiple generations in the workforce. (Please keep reading, even if you don’t work in healthcare – the thoughts apply to all).
Both of these ladies were frustrated because the “younger” team members (Millennials) insist on taking breaks. I asked a few questions and this is what I heard from the Boomers:
- We are too busy taking care of patients to take breaks – the work will back up.
- When they (the millennials) go on break, it means more work for the rest of us to cover for them.
- Sometimes the boomers don’t get lunch until 4p (starting the shift at 7a) but they need to get everything done before they leave the unit.
So here’s the question that’s plaguing me. Who’s right?
Are the millennials smarter by taking breaks? Are they more engaged because they’ve had some time away from work to recharge? Are they more efficient when they return?
Are the boomers more loyal and engaged because they put aside their own needs for the needs of their patients? Have they developed stamina over the years that means they don’t need a formal break? Are they more productive because they work without stopping?
I think we can learn from both viewpoints on this one. One hospital I worked with set a goal for every staff member to take a lunch break for 30 minutes away from the unit. This was an organization-wide goal supported by senior leadership. The belief was that patient care would improve so it was important to accomplish.
At first, a lot of the staff said “this will never work…we are WAY too busy to take a lunch break”. As usual, when the goal didn’t go away and taking a lunch break was measured and monitored, miraculously it started to happen…on all units on all shifts. Incident reports didn’t go up. Patient satisfaction didn’t go down. Teamwork actually improved. Now it’s part of everyone’s routine.
So here’s the moral of this story. Everyone can be right AND happy! When the boomers learn from the millennials and visa versa, there’s a wealth of knowledge to go around. Don’t worry GenXers…I haven’t forgotten about you. We all know you have lots to teach us as well.
Now, it’s time for my break. While I’m gone, please share your thoughts below.