I’m a member of Gen Z – you may also know us as Zoomers, or the Strawberry Generation, named after our perceived aversion to hard work, and fragility which sees us easily “bruised” at the slightest hardships. Unfortunately, these stereotypes have followed us into the workplace, leading to a pretty prominent disconnect between Gen Z employees, and our older bosses. 

The thing is, with some proper understanding, the differences between our generations don’t have to be a inhibitor of healthy workplace dynamics – here’s what I actually value at a workplace, as a member of Gen Z.

The disconnect between Gen Z employees and employers

What Gen Zs Value At A Workplace
Image for illustrative purposes only.
Image credit: TheSmartLocal

Let’s be honest here: in the workplace, we all have reputations – often, these reputations precede us. Gen Zs, for one, have built a reputation for being unresilient, while our employers, while undeniably more perseverant, have become known as uncompromising. 

The funny thing about these perceptions, though, are that they’re really nothing more than that – our “traits” as observed by others in the workplace are matters of opinion rather than matters of fact. This means that while we may see ourselves one way, our supervisors may not see us as such, and vice versa. 

This disparity, while a frustrating exposition of the generation gap, is telling of a much larger issue: a disconnect that arises from differences in experiences, priorities, and attitudes towards working culture. 

Take working culture as we used to know it, for example – back when times were tougher, there was far more work to be done, and far less technology to simplify it. Naturally, employers valued bone-breaking hard work. Employees delivered, and then some. 

What Gen Zs Value At A Workplace
Image for illustrative purposes only.
Image credit: TheSmartLocal

OT-ing till it was dark out was seen as a sign of commitment and strong work ethic, and stress was rampant, viewed as proof that one was taking the job seriously. 

Today, however, these same behaviours are signs of an overly demanding workplace, one that promotes an unhealthy work-life balance, incompatible with the values and priorities of the modern worker. 

While employees have grown to value mental health and balance, many employers have not – they continue to hold on to their dated expectations; ones that demand a level of commitment that is incongruent with maintaining a healthy work-life balance. This level of commitment is one that, frankly, most employees are unwilling to uphold.

Just as times change, priorities do too – more than anything, today’s employees value a healthy work life balance, and all its associated benefits. They prioritise their mental health, and are less willing to partake in practices that compromise this. This means less OT-ing, less taking work home, and more mental health days and personal time.

These behaviours, while critical to the wellbeing of Gen Z employees, are not looked upon favourably by employers. Practices that are intended to preserve mental health and prevent burnout are instead seen as laziness, or a lack of resilience. It’s a real conflict of perception – and it all boils down to differing perspectives. 

What bosses can do to up employee motivation and morale

This disconnect between employees and employers does not mean that employers are genuinely uncaring – in fact, many are keen to make a change, but are just at a loss of what they can do to improve things. 

Create a hospitable work environment

What Gen Zs Value At A Workplace
Image credit: TheSmartLocal

The easiest, and most intuitive step is to create a more hospitable work environment. This doesn’t have to come in the form of major expenditures and overhauls; something as simple as a communal snack corner or a break room can be a great way to up morale. Restful spaces create restful employees, and a well-rested employee is a happy employee.

Implement “Mental Health Days”

Other welfare initiatives, such as mental health days, are easy to implement and provide a great opportunity for employees to unwind and recharge, helping to prevent burnout and alleviate resentment towards the workplace. 

More importantly, though, it shows employees that you understand the need for a healthy work-life balance, and that you care to make steps towards achieving it. 

This care can come in intangible forms as well – one prime way to do this is to promote a culture of understanding, engendered by a commitment to open communication. 

Facilitate clear & open communication

At the end of the day, whether we’re a boss or an employee, we’re all just people, and we should act as such. Communicating expectations clearly can go far in making both parties feel heard and understood, and allows both to, in turn, work towards fulfilling these expectations.

Above all, understanding is of paramount importance. Making the effort to see things from your employees’ perspective can go far in minimising misunderstandings. Not skipping lunch to work on a last minute project is not a sign that your employees don’t value their job, and making full use of their ALs isn’t a sign that they are any less committed.

As employers, it’s time to stop seeing things as binaries. Instead, approach each situation with understanding and empathy, and treat them as you would like to be treated, to ensure they feel valued, because it is only when employees feel respected and valued that they can be best motivated to perform.

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Cover image adapted from: TheSmartLocal


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