Gen Z has made a big splash in the workplace.

Some have complained that Gen Z lacks a robust work ethic, while others praise the generation’s efforts to prioritize a work-life balance. Despite personal opinions on this fresh-faced cohort, Gen Z and their approach to work is here to stay. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), by 2025, Gen Z will make up about 27% of the workforce globally.

Among these new workers there is diversity of thought, but key similarities exist in their workplace behaviours and expectations. For example, the majority of Gen-Zers prefer companies that look after the wellbeing of their employees, communities, and the habitats in which they operate.

Gen Z is demanding workplace flexibility

Remote, hybrid, and other forms of flexible working are some of the wellbeing initiatives Gen Z expect from employers.

Droves of Gen-Zers entered the workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic, a time of great uncertainty and enforced remote working. Following the end of the pandemic, homeworking has evolved into hybrid working, which is widely accepted by companies and increasingly demanded by workers.

This is especially true for Gen-Zers, many of whom entered the workforce when remote working was the only option. Fortunately, it also suited their digital native natures.

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Hybrid working is a must

Unlike older generations, who are more likely to prefer either a fully in-person or fully remote working experience, Gen Z values the flexibility to do both.

According to research by McKinsey both working-age Gen-Zers and Millennials are 59% more willing to leave a job in comparison to their older counterparts if the option of hybrid working is taken away. Gen-Zers are key supporters of hybrid working in which social work relationships can be fostered, but the option of working from home is also available.

Burning the midnight oil has lost its allure

As changes occur in workplaces, so does the measure of what makes a good employee. This is especially impacted by the opinions of Gen-Zers entering the workforce.

For decades, the hours an employee put in were seen as a critical signifier of their value in the eyes of their employer. Those who burned the midnight oil were seen as role models for their work ethic and rewarded accordingly.

However, with technologies that enable increased working flexibility and Gen Z’s demand for a healthy work-life balance, employee performance is shifting to be measured by project outputs rather than by attendance alone. This shift is noticeable, for example, with the increased discussions regarding asynchronous working, which allows employees to complete their tasks when best suits them in a reasonable timeframe.

Erica Brescia, the ex-COO of GitHub, where the workforce was 70% remote even before the pandemic, is a key supporter of asynchronous working, citing benefits such as better documentation of project progress, reduction in meeting fatigue, and an overall enhancement of the existing benefits of remote working.

Gen Z is key in advocating for the realization that more hours worked does not necessarily mean higher productivity. This is supported by countless studies. A 2019 study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that, on average, UK office workers only manage to get through three hours of actual work per day, despite working longer hours than everywhere else in Europe. In the study, 12% of UK workers further revealed that they only completed overtime to look busy.

Long hours can backfire

These long hours, however, can backfire, and as early as 2015, Harvard Business Review attempted to bring attention to evidence suggesting that long working hours caused health problems, from impaired sleep to heart disease, diabetes, depression, and much more.

There are diminishing returns when it comes to overworking, and more companies are moving away from the traditional 9 to 5. In a UK trial of the four-day workweek involving over 60 companies between June and December 2022, more than 90% of participating businesses opted to continue with the trial after it had finished. In addition, 18 companies adopted the four-day week permanently, citing increased productivity as a benefit. Similar experiments have taken place elsewhere in the world with positive results.

Gen Z supports initiatives that improve diversity and inclusion

Discrimination based on gender, disability, religion, race, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation continues to be a global problem and one that Gen Z deeply cares about. For example, a 2023 Gen Z report published by the Oliver Wyman Forum and The News Movement found that almost 40% of Gen-Zers openly discussed sexism in the workplace compared with 34% of older generations. This difference, while small, is not insignificant and shows Gen Z starting to bring attention to workplace discrimination despite occupying junior positions in most companies.

The report also found that 21% of Gen-Zers surveyed would consider other jobs if their employers were not engaged in social issues. Flexible working is one of these social issues, especially since it can be implemented in ways to support disabled employees and further Gen Z’s support of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

A study funded by the Nuffield Foundation and led by Lancaster University in the UK found that “70% of Disabled workers said that if their employer did not allow them to work remotely, it would negatively impact their physical or mental health.” Gen Z will likely rally behind and support this move towards more flexible working.