The Evolving Role of Work

Posted September 7, 2023.

In our previous episode, we delved into the 2023 Deloitte Gen Z and Millennial Survey Report, focusing on the financial concerns highlighted in the study. Today, we shift our attention to another critical aspect of these generations' lives: their perspective on work. According to the report, work plays a significant role in their identity, but what truly matters to them is achieving a harmonious work-life balance.

When Gen Z and Millennials were asked about the factors most important to their sense of identity, the results were revealing:

1. Friends and Family: Topping the list, friends and family were deemed the most vital, with a range of 64-70% emphasizing their importance to identity.

2. Work: Work came in second, garnering 49-62% of the respondents' attention.

3. Hobbies: Hobbies claimed a 30% share of importance.

4. Music: Playing or listening to music was cited by 15-24% of respondents.

5. Exercise: For 23-25% of those surveyed, exercise played a role in their identity.

These numbers underscore the determination of these generations to strike a better work-life balance. Gen Z and Millennials take pride in their ability to juggle multiple priorities, but this balance isn't always easy to maintain.

Let's address a somewhat controversial notion here: the idea that these generations are the epitome of the phrase, "Jack of all trades, master of none." Some may argue that this generation embodies only the first part of the saying, but it's essential to consider the full phrase: "A jack of all trades is a master of none, but often times better than a master of one."

This phrase aptly characterizes this generation. Many are working tirelessly to make ends meet and keep pace with inflation. As discussed in our previous episode, they often hold down two full-time jobs, a full-time job alongside part-time work, or a side hustle. With such demanding schedules, they naturally conserve their energy at work, leading to what's known as "quiet quitting."

You might have heard someone say, "Why are you working so hard when you're making the same as everyone else? Just act your wage!" This statement elicits mixed feelings. While discouraging hard work to make oneself look better isn't ideal, it's essential to recognize the potential burnout that comes with overworking. I recall my own experiences working two full-time jobs during summers before college, and as the weeks passed, I found myself drained and less productive. My managers rightly pointed out that I needed to either put in the effort or consider quitting.

However, it seems that many in this generation have adopted the mindset of doing the bare minimum at multiple jobs, a strategy born out of necessity. They possess a broad skill set and a wealth of knowledge, but it often lacks depth—except for those who thrive in their respective fields, where they excel profoundly.

Understanding your employees and their unique situations is crucial for job retention and recruitment. Don't hold it against them if they're juggling multiple jobs. Instead, show empathy and seek ways to motivate them out of "quiet quitting" and into a thriving state, without pushing them to their breaking point.

When these generations are asked about the qualities they admire most in their peers, the top five attributes include:

1. Maintaining a Positive Work/Life Balance

2. Living Life on Their Own Terms, Free from Societal Expectations

3. Ambition to Continuously Learn New Skills

4. Willingness to Reinvent Themselves and Embrace Change (e.g., changing jobs or going back to school)

5. Passion for Their Work

These traits circle back to the theme of work-life balance, as discussed in our previous episode. Their pessimistic views often revolve around how worsening economic conditions may disrupt their work/life balance. While remote and hybrid work patterns have improved to around 61-55%, the gap between those who engage in remote work and those who don't is widening. Unfortunately, many companies are calling employees back to physical offices, eroding the core value of work/life balance.

In fact, for Gen Z and Millennials, it's more accurately described as "life/work balance." A significant 75-77% of those surveyed currently working in a hybrid/remote capacity said they'd consider seeking new employment if this arrangement were taken away, with one in six stating they would do so immediately. This speaks volumes about their values and priorities.

We must acknowledge the reality that not all jobs can be done remotely or in a hybrid manner. However, not all roles require physical presence in the workplace either. You can build a strong company culture without a physical office by clearly defining your vision and core values. It's a choice between creating a toxic work environment by demanding adherence to outdated norms or finding common ground and flexibility.

The rise of remote and hybrid work has also led to an increase in "always-on" workplaces. Millennials tend to be more susceptible to this trend than Gen Z, as they are more likely to respond to work-related emails or messages outside of regular hours. While this practice may be necessary for certain roles, it's crucial to set boundaries and expectations. Conversations about communication requirements can alleviate stress and help foster a healthier work environment.

Despite the challenges, Gen Z and Millennials largely feel that the work options available to them align with their expectations. There's only a 3-5% difference between what employers offer and what these generations prefer.

In conclusion, the key takeaway is understanding your people. Comprehending their motivations and values can significantly boost employee engagement and retention. It's not about trying to please everyone or assigning blame; it's about meaningful communication and finding mutual benefits. Let's integrate Gen Z into the workforce, tapping into their untapped talents and fresh perspectives. By meeting people where they are and seeking common ground, we can build a more inclusive and productive work environment for all generations.

Contact Me

Get In Touch

Curious to know more about Tim Stating The Obvious? Contact me through the contact form below to delve deeper into the world of leadership excellence!