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Empathy, reducing stress, saving money: impacts of COVID-19 on an Australian millennial

Bec is a Digital Marketing Manager at Deloitte Global, based in Toronto, Canada and originally from Australia. A self-professed digital nerd, Bec also loves writing, hiking, and is learning pottery.

I think it’s safe to say that 2020 hasn’t gone according to plan for anyone. Personally, being an Aussie living in Canada, I had plans to travel North America with my husband and take lots of ‘Instagram influencer’ worthy travel photos. Now, the furthest I travel is to the grocery store and back, carrying hand sanitiser and a mask. Not exactly Instagram worthy…

While COVID-19 has been an unprecedented time for all generations, as a millennial, I feel completely overwhelmed with online opinions and news about the impacts it’s had on our generation, especially statistics like Deloitte’s, “2020 Millennial Survey found that as of late April and early May, almost 30% of Gen Zs and a quarter of younger millennials (25–30 years old) reported either losing their jobs or having been placed on temporary, unpaid leave. At that point, about one in five millennials around the world had been put out of work.” I’ve had friends and family with uncertain futures in their jobs, had to reschedule weddings, and struggled with the isolation of lockdown. This isn’t isolated to my social circle – I have no doubt that everyone knows at least one person who has been impacted in some way.

The biggest shift I’ve experienced is sharing my office space (home) with my husband. My role is super flexible, and before lockdown I worked from the Toronto office a couple of days a week and the other days from home. I really only utilised the office space to socialise and make Canadian friends, given I am an expatriate from Australia. Now that my husband is working from home, too, navigating conference calls at the same time has been tricky. The most difficult part has been that our internet decides to disconnect if we are on calls at the same time!

Working from home was entirely new for my husband, but I’ve really enjoyed having a ‘colleague’ who isn’t from the same organisation. We’ve given each other feedback on how we approach our calls and work, and personally I’ve found it to be a positive experience.

However, I know not everyone has been as lucky to be able to easily shift their work to a home environment. Hearing and reading about others’ experiences has really helped me be more empathetic to my colleagues’ situations, especially those with kids at home or those who live alone. Working from home affects everybody in different ways, and, in turn, can impact productivity and how people work.

For those who’ve been unable to work, it’s been encouraging to see friends who have taken up learning new skills or launching their own businesses. Digital platforms have enabled millennials to be savvier, to reskill or upskill to future-proof themselves.

It’s hard to know what the future holds once the threat of COVID-19 has dissipated, and this has been a point of stress for me the last few months. That, coupled with the increased workload my team has been under as a result of our increased communications related to COVID-19, has resulted in some ‘I just want to cry’ moments. I’m not alone, as the Deloitte Global 2020 Millennial Survey found that 44% of millennials feel stressed all or most of the time. That’s huge! As a result, workplaces have been stepping up to help curb stress by offering more flexibility and wellbeing initiatives, and even some national governments are encouraging 4-day work weeks.

Personally, however, the most significant contributor to reducing my stress levels from work has been support from my team’s leadership. It’s been made very clear that we are living in unique times, and prioritising our own mental health and wellbeing should remain top of mind. Conversations have been encouraged, and I know that if I need help, am overworked, or simply cannot get something done in time my leadership has my back.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it … asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength” – Barack Obama.

I think the best thing workplaces can do for their millennial employees is encourage openness, be receptive to feedback, and truly listen to millennials and how they feel. This might result in more flexible time off or wellbeing initiatives – but solutions can’t be found without hearing the problems first.

On a different note, my husband and I working from home has actually helped us save money. Before the pandemic, 39% of millennials said their day-to-day finances are a source of a lot of stress, according to Deloitte Global’s 2020 Millennial Survey.  Being able to manage financial stress a little differently has been great for us. Some of the things I’ve started doing to make ‘money matters’ more manageable are:

  • Planning grocery shopping: Making a list of things I actually need for the whole week means I don’t buy items on a whim, and I actually eat all the food I buy.
  • Limiting take-out: We’ve only had take-out twice since March, which seriously helps save money. Another plus – my cooking skills have improved!
  • Avoiding online shopping: As much as I think I “need” new tracksuit pants for working from home, I really don’t. Not spending on non-essential items has really helped with savings.

While 2020 has been a year for the history books (and it’s only July!), I am proud of how millennials have come together to support each other across wellbeing, equality, and making an impact in their communities. I think COVID-19 has helped us remember what truly matters. For me, it’s family, friends, and my health. Oh, and my plant babies!

Millennials and Gen Zs hold the key to creating a “better normal”. Explore more about the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020.

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