Generation Z: Revolutionizing the Workplace
BY CATHERINE LITCHFIELD '23
Mental health advocates. Social reformers. Young and “woke.” Generation Z have gained quite a reputation for spearheading unprecedented change. In recent years, Gen Z, whose ages range from 10-25, have entered the workplace, implementing changes as they go. However, their new workplace habits frustrate older generations who prefer to maintain the “norm.” Generation X, ranging from 42-57, find Gen Z especially infuriating as they change the workplace that the former are used to. Despite receiving criticisms from older generations, Gen Z continue their fight for mental health awareness and use their strong technical skills to create advanced marketing strategies in the workplace—proving that workplace adaptability is long overdue.
Gen Z’s strong advocacy for mental health translates in the workplace as an emphasis on work-life balance, which has pushed the topic of “burnout,” which describes a state of feeling so overwhelmed that one loses all motivation to continue working. Gen Z are especially weary of burnout because they experience it in large numbers. For example, a 2021 Visier survey found that 80% of Gen Z reported feeling burnout compared to an average of 73% across all age groups. This demonstrates efforts to destigmatize this feeling by talking about it and providing solutions, such as cutting back work for a healthier lifestyle. A 2022 Asana survey also showed that Gen Z were more open to talking about mental health than older generations. Kim Hollingdale, a licensed psychotherapist specializing in burnout recovery suggests that “the growing problem of Gen Z burnout could help catalyze improvements in the way we work, [like] a much greater attention to workplace wellness, and revolutionizing the work environment to prevent burnout for these employees and others.” In contrast, Gen X, known for their “push through” mentality, due to many years of stigmatized mental health, view Gen Z’s mental health awareness as weak. However, the conversation around mental health has changed in the last few decades, so it is about time the workplace followed suit—a task Gen Z has taken on.
Continuing this mental health awareness, Gen Z are implementing another form of work-life balance—creating strong boundaries. While many past generations, including Gen X who are still in the workforce, advocated for working late hours and being “team players,” Gen Z has introduced a new perspective. Why work longer for unpaid hours? They work as long as they are expected, usually 9-5, meeting expectations and clocking out at 5pm on the dot. While this idea may seem fair for the worker, many Gen X scoff at the unwillingness of Gen Z to work extra hours to benefit their employer. Terms such as “team player” and “work family” are often used to guilt employees into working extra shifts, but Gen Z do not stand for this guise. While this practice may seem typical, it has been twisted and deemed “quiet quitting” on TikTok by older generations. “Quiet quitting” or work-life boundaries, have begged the question: why should the standard be exceeding expectations? Gen Z are creating a new, fairer precedent to do only as expected, a practice to make the workplace fairer and mentally manageable for employees.
Gen Z has made more changes in workplace environments beyond mental health advocacy. They are the first generation to have grown up with technology, and as the world becomes more tech-oriented, these skills are becoming necessary in the workplace. Almost any Gen Z hire will carry a certain tech skill set that no other generation has in any occupation. This makes Gen Z competitive for employment positions and raises the standard of basic skills required for hire.“Everyone should be looking at Gen-Z’s habits and tendencies now in order to understand the generation that will set the standards going forward,” says Samantha G. Wolfe, founder of PitchFWD and Adjunct Professor at NYU Steinhardt. This generation’s unique understanding of technology is also putting more companies on social media. While social media for businesses may seem childish, it actually expands the audience and promotes the business. A 2019 report by Piper Jaffray, an investment bank and management firm, noted that 73% of Gen Z preferred brands to contact them about new products through Instagram and Snapchat followings. Gen Z has the perfect skill set to achieve promotions on these social media platforms; they can modernize companies and bring in more profits and employees than ever before, demonstrating their importance in workplace reform.
Gen Z has changed the game for job expectations. While older generations fear straying from the norm they have created, ultimately, Gen Z wants to adopt a new and improved norm in these environments by allowing open conversations, setting strong boundaries between work and life, and revolutionizing marketing techniques.