Generation Zers, for all their faults, deserve credit for their attitudes towards work-life balance. They are setting an example in the workplace that executives must look to in their attempts to encourage older employees to take their feet of the pedals. If Generation Z is the future of work, then our prospects are much happier and much healthier.
Whiny. Lazy. Spoilt. Precious. Entitled. Egotistic.
If you were to Google Generation Z or watch the news on any given night, you would come out of it with a pretty bad impression of what today’s youth has to offer. We associate them with Uber Eats, iPhones, Instagram and online shopping. They expect everything and give nothing. The youth of today have more than any generation before them – and still they complain!
Obviously, this is an exaggeration. Our children and relatives are part of this group and we know from our experiences with them that they have a lot to offer. Like any generation, they have their faults, but these are balanced against qualities that are special and offer a great deal to workplaces.
And one of these qualities is particularly special: Generation Zers know what they want and aren’t afraid to let you know. In preserving mental health and happiness, the importance of this trait cannot be underestimated.
Work-life balance is a pressing problem facing most Australian workplaces. So committed are employees to their jobs that they fail to manage other elements of their lives that are just as important – like physical health, mental health and family life. The scale of this imbalance is backed up by the statistics. Professor Michael Leiter estimates that 7% or more of the workforce has experienced some symptoms of burnout. As such, executives are faced with the dilemma of insisting that their workers pace themselves while still maintaining their highest level of output.
Recent research into Generation Z suggests that young people will break this trend when it comes to work-life balance. According to PwC, “millennial employees are unconvinced that excessive work demands are worth the sacrifices to their personal life.” In essence, younger workers do not possess the same work obsession that other Australians have held for decades. For them, life is not about the next promotion, or how much money they can earn – it’s about finding a balance that is right for them, as individuals.
Australians aren’t used to seeing people take it easy. It’s a great part of our culture – we encourage people to reach for the highest level possible. Whether you are a tradesperson or a CEO, Australians take great pride in their work. But there is a point where pride in work becomes dangerous; it consumes everything around it until it is all that is left in a person’s life.
This is what makes the unique attitude that Generation Zers possess so beneficial. They understand that work is important, but they can ultimately put it into perspective. They are far more likely to live balanced lives. As an executive, this means it will take less to communicate your message; younger team members will understand that they need to be fully committed while on the job and relaxed while off it.
Executives need to tailor the culture of their workplaces to match the weight that younger team members will place on work-life balance. For example, if your workplace encourages graduates to work themselves into the ground for 12 hours a day for the first year, as some sort of rite of passage, executives should consider discouraging this. While some Generation Zers may want this sort of intensity, it will alienate other employees who don’t place the same emphasis on their occupation. Research suggests that these young employees will not hesitate to quit once they think that the demands of their work do not match their desire for balance.
For years and years, HR experts and behavioral psychologists have reminded us of how dangerous living an imbalanced lifestyle can be. It’s the issue that executives always keep in the backs of their minds but never truly act on. The emergence of Generation Z will change this. With their arrival will come a complete reorientation of priorities in the workplace.
Thankfully, this will make us all healthier and happier.