Today’s offices potentially span five full generations ranging from Generation Z to the Silent Generation. A coworker could just as easily be raised with a smart phone in hand as they could have used a typewriter at their first job. Some see differences between generational colleagues as an annoyance (“kids these days!”) and many rely on generational stereotypes as fact. The truth of that matter is that generational stereotypes have about as many holes in them as a piece of Swiss cheese. Current research questions the validity of generational stereotypes. This five-part series uncovers top generational myths as a strategy to support a diverse and healthy employee population.
Let’s start with the greenest part of the workforce: Generation Z. This cohort was born between 1997 and 2012 and the elders of this group turn 25 this year. The top three myths of Gen Z include:
- Their interest in workplace flexibility is fueled by the desire for remote work. Workplace flexibility refers to how, when and where work gets accomplished. Historical literature pegs Generation Z as a group keen to choose when and where they complete their work. A recent survey completed by Annemarie Hayek, President and Founder of Global Mosaic, refuted this prior claim with data. It showed less than a third want a fully remote position. More exciting to Generation Z? Compensation and having their opinions heard by leadership.
- Mental health benefits fall into the “nice to have” category. Generation Z felt the effects of the pandemic mental health crisis and value quality healthcare. The National Institutes of Health study predicts that one third of today’s teenagers will experience mental health difficulties related to anxiety. Prior generations may hear “mental health” and think of fluffy wellness programs, but Gen Z sees it as so much more than a webinar on work-life balance. While this attribute is shared with Millennial colleagues, this group is more active in communicating their needs with managers and peers. No shying away from uncomfortable conversations here! Mental health was an ongoing conversation in their youth. For this reason, they are realistic about the hard costs and prioritize therapy and paid time off benefits.
- They are uncomfortable with face-to-face conversations. This generation was raised with technology at their fingertips and social media omnipresent, so many assume they rely on text for all professional communications. This common misconception does not pan out, says Ryan Jenkins, Inc. columnist and generational expert. Data shows that 84% of Gen Z favor live communication with their bosses. This group does not hide behind a screen in or out of the office. Generation Z was raised in an ever-changing sociopolitical environment that included school shootings, economic recessions, and increased focus on climate change. Because of this early exposure, they are comfortable activists, and they bring this social awareness to work.
Despite what you may have heard, the majority of Generation Z isn’t opposed to working in the office. They prioritize “hard” mental health benefits and prefer live conversations with their managers.
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