Millennials Struggling to Unplug on Vacation


Millennials are working hard. Perhaps too hard.

Brendan Pringle of the Washington Examiner reports a recent study from the AARP found:

“…47 percent of Millennials (ages 20 to 36) feel it is ‘extremely’ or ‘very important’ to stay connected to their employer while on vacation. Meanwhile, only 33 percent of Generation X-ers and a mere 16 percent of Baby Boomers feel the same. Additionally, almost 75 percent of Millennials expect to bring work along with them as they’re traveling. In a similar survey, 42 percent of Millennials admitted that they intended to work on vacation, compared to just 28 percent of Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers combined.”

Pringle adds, “It doesn’t help that Millennials feel immense pressure to accelerate in their careers as the economy finally gets back on track…With the economy now in their favor, they are eager to unload their student debt, get married, and even buy their first home. But they need financial security before they can do any of that.”

In his book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters, Timothy Keller observes, “More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are god, that our security and value rest in our wisdom, strength, and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. You are supreme” (75).

Pringle is right that Millennials are driven to earn so that they can reach their goals, but there are other factors as well. Older Millennials are now in a season of life where they can accomplish the most in their careers, pursue achievement, and gain status. In other words, it is now their opportunity to climb to the top of the heap.

In light of this, Keller is right to suggest that Millennials pursue personal success and achievement as an idol, and their inability to cease from work while on vacation is not only a neglect of the practice of sabbath, but is also an outward indicator of an inward condition: the longing to establish or justify themselves on the basis of their own merit.

While it would indeed be helpful for Millennials to hear from their pastors that refraining from work and practicing sabbath are helpful for their spiritual well-being and to complement this truth with scientific data that shows unplugging from work also benefits mental and emotional health as well as overall work productivity, that might not be enough.

Millennials need to hear compelling gospel preaching that drives toward the heart motivations leading Millennials to feel bound to work even when they are away. They need to be reminded that Jesus is the foundation for their identity, and that his work upon the cross has given us peace.