For our Millennials (born 1980-1994) and Gen Z (born 1995-2009), the ripple effects of COVID-19 are already having a profound impact on their ways of living. Lifestyle satisfaction and their ‘enjoyment’ of the social aspects of work have always been seen as ‘essential’ in both online and offline contexts. Under the backdrop of a global pandemic, social needs are being rivalled by more basis survival needs. The question now becoming – how can we maximise engagement from these generations in a context where their priorities and needs are shifting in today’s changing landscape?
Finding the balance: Flexi-working and Face-to-Face
When the Millennial generation, also known as Gen Y (born 1980-1994), entered the workforce they challenged the status quo by pushing for more work-life balance and flexi-working conditions, sending many organisations into a spin.
With Gen Z (born 1995-2009) now the emerging cohort of workers, their work priorities and demands have continued to challenge the parameters of what work is and how it can be done.
With many entering the workforce empowered and tech-savvy, these generations have brought much needed skills to the table, yet also been a pain point for some in the older generations who have found their “entitled” attitude to work frustrating. Having grown up with access to education, entertainment and employment opportunities from their devices, Gen Z have inherently seen work as something that in many cases can be done from anywhere, at any time. The global pandemic has accelerated this flexi-working for many industries where previously there may have been some resistance to staff working remotely.
Whilst younger generations have pressed for flexi-working arrangements, it’s important to recognise that they also place a high value on the social, relational, collaborative side of workplaces and what they have to offer. The full swing to remote working for many has been felt as a step too far for many who desire a balance of remote flexi-working alongside collaborative, face-to-face co-working with colleagues to facilitate sustained work motivation.
I just need a job: The shift from job opportunity to job security
Over the last few years I have conducted a lot of interviews with Gen Zs and asked them “what will matter to you in your career?” Repeatedly, the top priorities I have heard are that they want to enjoy work, have friendly colleagues, have flexibility and variety in their job role, and have a sense of purpose and ongoing growth.
Many young people have enjoyed the benefits of increased connectivity and have a ‘side hustle’ earning them money. Flexibility, fun and fulfilment have mattered more than job security and permanence in a ‘boring’ job. However, in the present situation a number of Gen Zs are beginning to form rather different expectations of work. As many Gen Zs have had casual jobs and worked in hospitality, entertainment and event industries, they have been among the first to lose their jobs with the shutdown rules and restrictions.
Perhaps the economic impacts of COVID-19 will rebalance the priorities of Gen Zs in this space. Although they have been raised in an environment saturated with ‘options’ and have grown accustomed to constant stimulation, they will place more value on the security of a permanent job role over less secure ‘fun’ roles that may have previously captured their attention.
Claire Madden is a leading voice internationally on Generation Z. As an author, social researcher, keynote speaker, and media commentator, Claire is in high demand as an expert in interpreting social trends, demographics, and implications of generational change. By Claire Madden