“People in their thirties think anyone who works more than 40 hours a week is nuts.”

Published on: 23 September 2020

This week is National Vitality Week. That means: a lot of attention for vitality and work satisfaction. Younger and older employees sometimes have very different views about the latter. Overall, what are the biggest differences? “People in their thirties think anyone who works more than 40 hours a week is nuts.”


Work satisfaction is a flexible concept. Generation X (born between 1955-1970), has a different understanding of it than the millennials (1985-2000), or Gen-Z (2000-2015). The older generation, to a greater extend, lives to work, while younger people really value their private life and their lifestyle. Generation strategist Marjolein Risseeuw knows all about this. She helps teams to bridge the differences in the workplace, gives online and offline workshops (corona-proof), and wrote the book Zó X! Hoe de Nieuwe Leiders Talenten in Organisaties Verbinden (So X! How the New Leaders Connect Talents in Organizations). We asked her what the views of people in their thirties and fifties are regarding the various aspects of their professional lives.


Sense of duty and authority

30: “Young people don’t want a hierarchy; they want equality. They want to use their talents. They want trust and freedom. Inspiration instead of commands. Not a job for life, but to make an impact. They’re happy to do something for you, but you have to gain their trust first.”

50: ”They want power, but they also need to show the capacity for empathy, find out what occupies the minds of young people and not just issue orders. They still lean heavily towards procedures and meetings. They make deliberate decisions based on much more information than people in their thirties. They see this as being committed to the company. Lifetime employment is still a thing for many in this age group.”

Young people want freedom, trust, inspiration and equality


30: “They value the internal more than the external. Company cars are out. They are increasingly opting for more of a self-employment existence and temporary contracts. An employment contract is no longer a status symbol for them; the work atmosphere is much more important. They are looking for an inspiring work environment.”

50: “Older people, particularly people in their sixties, are often the breadwinners. They need their salaries to support the family. The traditional nuclear family, where (usually) the husband works to pay the mortgage and the wife (usually) takes care of the kids. There is a bit of a reversal around age 50; many women are gradually becoming the breadwinners at that age.”


Leisure time

30: “They think anyone who works more than forty hours a week is nuts. They really manage their own work time. For them, work and private life are divided 24/7. They are ambitious enough, and they also want personal appreciation, but only when the time is right for them. I call it restrained freedom. To start with, they’re already working three or four days a week, instead of five. They use their leisure time much more concretely, for example, by fundraising for good causes, or other social-societal initiatives.”

50: “They feel that if they’re working forty hours a week they’re doing well. The work-private life balance is very important to 80 percent of them and they keep the two separated. They often see leisure time as time to spend with the kids. There is a difference between men and women. Men who go and watch a soccer match on a Wednesday afternoon call that leisure time during work, whereas mothers will take a day off for it. In this way the woman is often a thief of her own wallet.”


Working from home

30: “People used to move for their work, but that’s no longer happening. Young people think it’s enough that they are available and accessible. Self-direction and personal development are very important to them. With the great increase in working from home, currently, we are seeing that they are developing some physical and mental issues; the traditional mouse arm is back. They really need to protect the boundaries of the work-private life balance. When they’re working from home, they need to learn to take a step back from their work.”

50: “In the past, many senior managers believed that working from home was not possible. They wanted coworkers to be absolutely available, so that they could just walk over to their office for a meeting. That has really changed since corona. Now they like working from home, particularly because of the freedom. They do need very clear goals and a strong footing. Phone contact is very important to them; they like to hear a voice.”


Retraining and further training

30: “They choose a company for the development opportunities they will get there. But, because of their individualism, they keep having to motivate themselves. You have to offer them an environment where they can easily learn and develop themselves.”

50: “They like coaching and many seniors are good at it too. They certainly have a degree of curiosity to keep learning. But it does have to fit in with their frame of reference. Among people in their sixties we see less capacity for self-reflection; after all they have hardly ever done any coaching.”



30: “They look at retirement very differently than people who are now in their fifties did when they were in their thirties. Young people are mostly focused on how things fit into their lifestyle and definitely not on their retirement. They switch jobs often and get a lot more satisfaction from social projects. Only the ones that already have a family and a mortgage are thinking a bit more about their financial future.”

50: “Twenty years ago they were much more focused on their career planning, salary and steady job to pay the mortgage. That also included a contribution to their pension. And if you changed jobs, they used the term pension loss. Young people are not familiar with that term.”

Work satisfaction: what exactly does that mean, now and in the future? We asked Roxy and Rob, two people from different generations.


“Certainty, hard work and enjoyment”


Roxy van Dijk (27) is a consultant/mortgage broker at Viisi.

“Work satisfaction to me is first and foremost certainty That includes a good salary and benefits. Next, self-development and work culture are very important to me. At Viisi, you have the freedom to pick up other work in addition to your position. Working hard and celebrating successes together are part of that culture here. We are all there for each other when it’s busy, but also for personal challenges. I obviously have a long way to go before I retire, but I’m consciously working on my pension. Purchasing my own home is a good step. I also contribute to an additional pension plan through Brand New Day on my own. But it’s also very important to me to live in the moment and enjoy life. Sometimes it takes a bit of exploring to find the right balance.”



“Going home feeling satisfied at the end of the day”


Rob Monissen (59) is personal aide in social care at Koraal.

“Work satisfaction is the conviction that you’re doing something that helps others. It also means you have nice coworkers and that you go home feeling satisfied at the end of the day. In practice, this means that it varies from day to day and it depends on a number of factors. Although my work gives me a lot of satisfaction, I am looking forward to doing things I enjoy, when the times comes for me to retire. I will combine this with volunteer work, as much as body and mind will allow it. There are things that I’m already looking forward to now. The count-down has begun, despite the fact that I have a varied job right now.”