What Can We Learn from Gen Z at Work?

From what we know so far, Gen Zers are not the ones to nod their heads and remsin dissatisfied at work. In fact, they would rather be unemployed than feel unappreciated, research shows.
Can we blame them, though?

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gen z work

Illustration: L. T.

Why Gen Zers need to be taken seriously   

Whether you’re aware of it or not, Gen Zers have in fact surpassed Baby Boomers at workplace. They’re entering the workforce vastly and rapidly, and they have completely different standards and expectations than their older counterparts. 

Before you dismiss them as spoiled, hear them out and decide if their attitude makes sense to you. 

For example, a regular 40+ hour week that leaves no room for hobbies and social life isn’t exactly how they imagine their life to be. 


I’m not interested in sacrificing 30 years of my life for a handshake and a golden watch. And I don’t think a lot of people are anymore.

Source: Washington Post 

Moreover, with today’s working environment, not many of them look forward to retirement to finally read all the books they wanted. In fact, most of them believe they won’t meet the conditions for retirement. 

In case you’re not sure who Gen Zers are..
This demographic group, consisting of individuals born between 1997 and 2012, finds itself at the forefront of shaping the professional world in 2023, with its members ranging in age from 10 to 25.
What sets Gen Z apart is their unique upbringing, defined by the ubiquitous presence of smartphones and the widespread adoption of social media platforms. These technological phenomena have not only provided them with unprecedented access to information but have also exposed them to both the conveniences and pitfalls of the digital age.
They are the trendsetters, pioneering new ideas, methods, and practices. Whether it's introducing novel communication tools or spearheading sustainability initiatives, Gen Z is consistently at the forefront of change. Conversely, they are also the trend-enders, unafraid to challenge and dismantle outdated norms and practices. Their critical thinking and desire for authenticity push organizations to reassess their strategies and adapt to a rapidly changing world.

But before we answer what they expect from their workplace, first let’s take a look into what has contributed to them being the generation with a different mindset: 

  1. Social media puts emphasis on individuals, so people today tend to prioritize their personal time and quality of life. With that mindset, job needs to support their lifestyle rather than dictate it. 
  2. Times have changed significantly since our grandparents were young. A regular Gen Zer can only dream of buying a house as a young adult only from their wage. With that in mind, they don’t think of their jobs as something worth investing all your energy in. 

In the end, this generation is dictating the future of work, so we might as well listen to them. 

What do we know about Gen Z at work?   

To paint a better picture of Gen Z at work, we’ve combined 2023 data from “The Rise of Generation Z: A Paychex Special Report” and “2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey” from Deloitte. 

These are the most important takeaways: 

  • Gen Z females are working more than their male counterparts. Gen Z females represent 20.5% of all female workers, while Gen Z males only represent 17.7% of all male workers. 
  • Gen Z workers are most common in leisure and hospitality, making up 37.2% of the total small business workforce in Leisure and Hospitality. 

People my age don’t take any bulls---. … We’re doing our best to rise above all the mistakes of past generations and fix things more urgently.

Source: Washington Post 

  • Wages for Gen Z are low, but they’re rapidly growing. Hourly earnings growth for Gen Z (9.3%) is more than double the national average (4.5%) 
  • Gen Z is making strides to close the gender pay gap. The pay gap between male ($20.82/hour) and female employees ($18.82/hour) in Gen Z is $2.00 compared to $6.74 across all generations. 

What do Gen Zers want at work?   

Study from Deloitte show that Gen Z employees’ and their bosses’ views differ in three key aspects: 

  1. Empathy – Gen Zers ranked empathy as the second most important trait in a boss, while bosses ranked it, on average, a distant fifth. 
  2. Mental Health – Less than half of Gen Zers say their boss helps them maintain a healthy workload, and 28% say they struggle with their mental health because of their boss.   
  3. Personal Identity – 61% of Gen Zers already in the workforce feel that work is a significant part of their identity, while 86% of bosses say that work is a significant part of their identity. 

Now, according to the same study, we can finally try to give an answer to what Gen Z is expecting from a workplace and what current conditions make them dissatisfied. 

They expect business leaders to address important social and environmental issues. 

From those on higher positions, Gen Zers expect to take on accountability and lead the way for change. After all, if they are superiors, they should build a wholesome picture to look up to. 

If these expectations isn’t met and Gen Zers feel like the company’s true values don’t reflect theirs, it wouldn’t take them long to leave. As the saying goes, “You don’t quit your job, you quit your boss.” 

They want to work remotely. 

Gen Zers don’t see much sense in sitting in an office for eight hours if their position doesn’t require them to (and most of them don’t). But it’s not only personal preference; with today’s cost of living, it’s near to impossible to have a decent apartment in a good neighborhood and still afford other goods in life, 

That’s why, many who live far from their workplaces spend countless hours weekly commuting, when all of this could be fixed with a more flexible work policy. What’s more, ¾ respondents said they would look for another job if their current workplace asked them to switch to on-site. 

Work is important, but work-life balance is a priority. 

Gen Zers have realized that a person has more than one identity, and although work is important and takes much of their time, it’s even more important to take care of your other interests, habits, personal relationships, and have enough time to relax and recharge in order to prevent burnout. 

As it turns out, older colleagues and bosses tend to have a problem accepting their Gen z employees’ need for healthy boundaries, even though they’re made so that both parties could benefit in the long run. 

They don’t tolerate any sort of discrimination. 

Gen Zers are super strict when it comes to sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination. And the age gap really shows here, since older generations are more acceptive of the so-called “jokes” that are, in fact, subtle sexism. 

And if they feel harassment on their skin or in their environment, they won’t let it go unnoticed. They will call out the elephant in the room and explain why that kind of behavior is unacceptable. However, 1/3 of respondents don’t think their bosses or HR handled things effectively. 

A journalist by day and a podcaster by night. She's not writing to impress but to be understood.