Gen Z

Gen Z is growing up and burning out

Better pay, hybrid work, jobs with purpose. That’s not too much to ask…right?
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· 4 min read

It seems like everyone’s thirsty to vibe with Gen Z right now. And who could blame them? The generation born starting in 1997 is the most diverse in US history, touts $360 billion in potential disposable income, and is expected to make up approximately 30% of the workforce in the US by 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employers, in particular, want to know how Gen Z feels about remote work, social causes, burnout, and everything in between. To that end, there have been a slew of surveys and studies attempting to help employers understand Gen Z (and millennial) workers, including recent reports from Deloitte, Indeed, and Asana. Though the findings didn’t agree on everything, they generally aligned on a portrait of Gen Z that featured a longing for in-person collaboration, higher levels of stress and anxiety, and a yearning for purpose at work.

Office versus home. Surveys show that, by and large, Gen Z workers crave flexibility and the option of working from home. The Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial survey recently found that 75% of Gen Zers prefer a hybrid or work-from-home model, as do their millennial counterparts (76%). But while they want to work from home at least sometimes, over 90% of Gen Z employees surveyed who have never worked in an office full-time have FOMO about traditional workplace experiences, according to research from Indeed.

Sahar Yousef, a cognitive neuroscientist and lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, told HR Brew that Gen Z’s desire to work in an office is understandable, given the social opportunities an office can offer. “The workplace historically has been a watering hole for finding friends, finding a mate, finding community, a sense of belonging, and having connection,” Yousef said. “Our jobs are a huge aspect of our holistic lives.”

Burning out. Whether they’re at home or in the office, it seems the newest generation to enter the workforce is already burned out. A survey from workflow management platform Asana found that 84% of Gen Z reported experiencing burnout in the last year, compared to 63% of all workers who said they’ve felt burned out. Deloitte’s research also found that 46% of Gen Z workers were “stressed or anxious all or most of the time” and that stress is frequently tied directly to a poor work-life balance.

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Yousef said some of the burnout Gen Z is experiencing is likely from poor “digital hygiene,” meaning they don’t know how to log off—including from work. She says that employers can have a major role to play in helping Gen Z workers have a healthy relationship with work and technology.

“Disconnection is not a nice-to-have. It is mandatory.” She recommends that employers institute clear communication strategies so there’s “intentionality to how we collaborate and how we communicate, so that folks actually have the ability and the space to turn off.”

More than a job. The data also indicates that while surveyed Gen Z and millennial workers are motivated by money, they’re also motivated by a sense of purpose. Deloitte found that 37% of zoomers and 38% of millennials say they have rejected a job or work assignment because of “their personal ethics.” And according to a ThoughtExchange survey conducted in January, 85% of Gen Z “values working at a company with a mission that makes their work feel important.”

Yousef believes these younger workers are in search of a concrete sense of how they’re contributing to the organization. “What creates a motivated employee? What is the actual heart and soul of engagement, motivation, productivity? And what keeps people engaged at their jobs? I will tell’s not, in fact, perks, benefits. Not even the amount that you get paid. It is actually a daily sense of progress.”

Abbi Hill, a member of Gen Z and a recruiting coordinator at peer-to-peer storage company Neighbor, told HR Brew that her generation simply wants to know that they matter. “A lot of us want to be able to know that our opinions and voices will be heard and they won’t just be thrown to the side. And so that’s a huge question that we get is how communication is handled in the workplace.”

As for Gen Alpha, they’re currently watching Paw Patrol and have some time before researchers start worrying about their level of burnout.—KP

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @Kris10Parisi on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Kristen for her number on Signal.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.