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The Changing Workforce – An EAP for Homesickness?

What a difference a generation or two makes. This question was recently posted on LinkedIn…

“Has anyone implemented a successful employee support programme that helps employees cope with homesickness?

I used to suffer from homesickness when I first moved away from home. It is common when relocating to a new role, but I wanted to gather opinions on ways of how to combat this using innovative or traditional methods of support provided by the employer (emphasis added). I have worked for firms in the past that have had external employee assistance programmes to help with problems outside of work, but wondered if there are any other effective ways of handling this type of problem. Thanks in Advance. “

Now I understand that there are differences in the four generations in the workplace, but I must admit that seeing this question caused me to do a double take. My first impulse was that this must be a satirical post. While I did not immediately click to view the whole post, I felt an urge that people get when passing a highway accident, I don’t want to look, but I have to look. So I broke down and looked, and lo and behold, there was the post, and beneath it, serious answers.

Whoa, I thought. I guess I am older than I thought. Programs to help adults deal with homesickness? Is it really the responsibility of the employer now to help people with homesickness? Well, in my opinion I hope not. For me this is a parenting issue. I know that many will disagree with my opinion, and that’s fine – in fact I would be very interested to hear anyone’s thoughts on this.

I look at this issue as a Gen X’er just on the cusp of the Baby Boomers. As a generation we were the latch key kids, our parents hadn’t yet climbed into their helicopters, and our lives were not structured and scheduled to the minute. We met at the nearest field and picked our own teams for the baseball game (yup the better athletes got picked first, and we most certainly kept score). We hopped on our bikes and disappeared all day, solving our own problems, and making our own fun. We are the me generation. We grew up and left. We and the Boomers are managing and leading now, and as a group I don’t think we would be very open to our employees having performance issues due to homesickness.

That said, maybe we do need to be somewhat understanding, since we are the parents of the generation that is now feeling homesick. We’ve structured and scheduled our kids to a level never before seen. We not only went to their soccer games – we pulled up chairs for their practices. When our kids hop on their bikes to play – they have a cell phone and we are in constant touch with them. When they struggled in school we went in to “discuss” the grades with the teacher. The cord is still firmly attached.

What’s my point, and what worries me? There are millions of kids in India, China, and all over the world who are bright, creative, and they will be entering the workforce soon. The number of honors students in India right now outnumbers the WHOLE POPULATION OF THE UNITED STATES. That’s a lot of really smart kids. That’s a lot of really smart kids that want a job. My parents used to tell me to “eat my dinner, there were millions of starving kids in China who would love the food on your plate”. I’ve started to tell my kids, “do your homework, there are billions of kids in China who want your job”, and they won’t be asking for an EAP for homesickness.

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