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How Gen Z redefined work culture, embraced passion, and demanded flexibility at workplace in 2023

www.yourstory.com | December 21, 2023

Unlike previous generations, many Gen Zs are approaching work with a different set of values. They want a workplace that has stronger values of inclusivity, provides work-life balance and individual growth, and more.

Twenty-three-year-old Mini Sharma, who worked for a media company, quit after working for five months this year because of a poor work-life balance.

"I was clocking over 12 hours daily. Even on my off days, I was expected to work, mirroring the habits of senior colleagues. The workload was overwhelming, exceeding our team's capacity. For five months, my life revolved between home and office, leaving little room for anything else," she says.

When Mallika Grover-a 22-year-old young poet from Siliguri, West Bengal, left her full-time PR job-it was not because she was underpaid or found a better opportunity. She wanted to follow her inner calling for poetry.

According to the layoff.fyi, which tracks tech startup layoffs and lists of employees laid off, 108 startups have laid off 15,098 employees in 2023. Despite the layoffs this year, many Gen Z workers did not hesitate to make unconventional decisions at work.

"Gen Z champions work-life balance, workplace diversity, and mental wellbeing. With an individualistic approach, they prioritise self-awareness," Anup Tripathi, Assistant Professor of Sociology at FLAME University, tells SocialStory.

Like Grover and Sharma, many Gen Zs are approaching work with a different set of values, unlike previous generations. Reports show that Gen Z-born between 1996 and 2010-will constitute 27% of the workforce globally by 2025.

Individuality over labels

As per a study published in Frontiers, Gen Z prioritises individual expression over labels. Grover says, "Growing up, I had always been drawn towards things I am passionate about, and for me, it was poetry."

"I was working full-time in a PR agency, and a few months back, I decided to quit and follow my passion. I utilised this time away from work to write my debut book, Loving Love, and I am glad to see this dream come to life. To sustain myself, I took up freelance writing projects, voiceovers, and some PR work," she adds.

Twenty-five-year-old Sahil Choudhary, too, did something similar.

"I left my job to work on my startup. I feel I was in the right age bracket to take this well-planned risk, as I have enough savings to sustain myself till I start generating revenue," says Choudhary, Founder of Auto Flow, a startup focused on automating application testing using AI.

Tripathi explains this pattern: "In a paradigm shift, this generation prioritises 'I’ because they have awareness of their needs, and are driven by the pursuit of self-actualisation. This is either fuelled by generational wealth/privilege or good quality education, or both."

In fact, employers can harness these changing values to attract and retain Gen Z employees for a longer period, he adds.

One can see it implemented at Bukit.travel, where Founder Garima Pande supports a young employee to pursue her interest in classical dance by giving her time off during weekdays for rehearsals. She also visits her dance class to learn more about what she’s doing.

"This generation inherently has the desire to learn and experience new things at once, instead of being hyper-focused about a job," says Pande, adding, "In my experience, nurturing these passions makes them more passionate about work, as their emotional wellbeing is higher."

Tripathi believes Gen Z prioritises individual rights over communal causes-easily construed as selfish by older generations. He, however, calls it "self-awareness."

"Gen Z emphasises self-actualisation, focusing on personal abilities and emotional needs, as their basic physiological needs are taken care of," he adds.

No slogging

Riya Kapoor (name changed), a 24-year-old journalist, switched her job after four months of joining an organisation. She decided to part ways with the traditional concept of slogging in the initial years of service-where working till exhaustion was romanticised.

"In the initial months, my routine consisted of eating, sleeping, and working over 12 hours a day in my house. I got one day off weekly, and I used to be so mentally exhausted that at times, I didn’t step out for weeks together. My friends, who were in the same profession, had better lifestyles," she recalls.

Health is wealth

Higher rates of anxiety, depression, and distress-Gen Z professionals are experiencing them more than other generations in the workplace, a study by Forbes found.

Two months into her job, Sharma says, "I have PCOS and anxiety disorder. My doctor tells me that physical fitness is a part of my treatment for the hormonal condition. But there I was, sitting for long hours. I ended up with hormonal imbalances and panic attacks."

Besides work, she witnessed extreme ‘groupism’ in her team, which left her scared to go to the office, as "I would be there all by myself with hardly any conversation with my team members."

In recent years-Asiya Shervani, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisor, says-Gen Z has become vocal about wanting benefits such as mental health insurance, menstrual leaves, the freedom to pursue work-life balance, and other interests. Shervani co-designs customised learning experiences, interventions and solutions for organisations.

As per Medical News Today, while Gen Z teens and adults, millennials, and boomers have the same stressors, the experience for Gen Z is more intense due to greater exposure to social media. The generation is growing up during heightened anxiety and stress caused due to financial, health, and climate concerns.

"Destigmatising mental health is the most important step to building a supportive workplace culture," says Niki Jorgensen, who specialises in employee onboarding, human capital management and HR infrastructure at Forbes.

She adds, "When employees go through a difficult time, they might believe staying on top of work is more of a priority. They might not allow themselves enough time to address their issues properly. However, it can lead to further problems down the road for the individual-and potentially their entire team."

Flexibility at work

Sakshi Singh, a 23-year-old PR professional, says she changed jobs primarily due to the challenges she faced while working with the older generation. "They often resisted taking breaks, believing we should adhere to the work habits they developed during their time."

"Some individuals even assumed a parental role, expressing they were like my parents and insisting on teaching me while pressuring me to match their work intensity," she adds.

In her present job, Sharma has a hybrid work culture, where she has to work from the office three days a week. Similarly, Kapoor preferred a remote job as it allowed her to work from anywhere.

"I sometimes work while travelling or take week-long breaks every few months to travel. These breaks rejuvenate me, leaving me feeling refreshed and prepared for work," Kapoor adds.

Diversity and inclusion

Deloitte, in a report, says diversity is the watchword for Gen Z. It is not just isolated to race and gender but also related to identity and orientation.

Companies that can better represent the spectrum of differences in their external branding/marketing are much more likely to diversify their talent pipelines, the report adds.

In 2022, Tata Steel launched QUEERious-a case study competition for students to participate in LGBTQ+ inclusion in the corporate world by sharing their ideas and engaging in a live internship with the company.

"These queer youngsters get to work and interact with community members already working in the organisation, and get hands-on experience of inclusivity in the workplace, which encourages them to join the workforce and be excited about it," says Anubhuti Banerjee, Manager - IT, Customer Relationship Management, Tata Steel.

One of the biggest challenges for Gen-Z is finding their place in the workplace and staying engaged.

According to Jayanthi Vaidyanathan, Vice President and Head of HR, PayPal India, to tackle this, it has created various informal opportunities for employees of all generations to interact-be it championing equity in the workplace or identifying ways to strengthen the community, joining an employee resource group or a community impact team.

"Having a good number of gender non-conforming and trans people changes a lot of attitudes in workplaces. We decided to have more members of the community in the workplace that would lead to a shift in policies naturally," adds Banerjee, who is also a transwoman.

This article includes the valuable insights of Prof. Anup Tripathi, Faculty of Sociology, FLAME University.

(Source:- https://yourstory.com/socialstory/2023/12/future-of-work-gen-z-redefined-work-culture-from-home-diversity-inclusion )