As Generation Z, the successors of Millennials and children of Generation X, enter the workforce, they are seemingly shaking up their job environments whether it be for better or worse. Colloquially known as Gen-Z or zoomers, the population of people born between 1997 and 2012 are more accepting of societal change and are more liberal in comparison to older generations.
And these views follow them right into their office spaces: 69% of Gen-Z workers expect flexibility in working options. They strive for a diverse community, are highly collaborative and social, and value relevance, authenticity and non-hierarchical leadership. They value the ability to be who they are around their colleagues and to feel comfortable in professional settings.
They also emphasize social responsibility. This mentality not only drives where they work, as 49% of Gen Zs said that their personal values affect the type of work they would do and where they would do it, but also how they shop, taking into consideration how companies treat the environment, protect personal data and position themselves on social and political issues.
Gen-Z, the socially aware generation, has older generations asking: Are all of these wants and changes commendable, or are the newest workers asking for too much? Is the “snowflake” generation making unnecessary changes, or are they shifting workplace culture for the better?
Gen-Z is a generation of disrupters. Elizabeth Michelle, a London-based psychologist and workplace engagement consultant, explains that “It takes a lot less for them to leave than it did for previous generations,” citing Gen-Z’s want for companies to actually follow through on mission statements, and their understanding that there are now infinite ways to make a living thanks to technological advancements and the internet.
In a post-pandemic world, comfort is another thing that Gen-Z has slipped into the workplace. Clothing is a big part of self expression, and the newest workers have been raising some eyebrows with the outfits they have attempted to wear to their 9 to 5s. Long-sleeves are getting traded in for visible tattoo sleeves. Facial piercings are becoming more commonplace. A traditional dress code of button downs, pencil skirts, and slacks is becoming more and more restrictive for the new generation. Professor Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University, said “There’s a strain of thought that says an employee represents a company, and thus dress is not about personal expression, but company expression, but there’s a counterargument that believes because we identify so much with our careers, we should be able to be ourselves at work.”
Santina Rizzi, 24, worked as a paralegal right after she graduated from Florida State University, and earned a reputation for violating the usual dress code of button-up shirts, long skirts (or short skirts with tights) and closed-toe shoes, also known as business casual. She eventually left her job at the firm and became a social media manager for well known plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Salzhauer (Dr. Miami), where her attire is no issue at all. Rizzi explains that she wore crop tops to work because she doesn’t want to buy things that she doesn’t think she is going to wear.
Jane Yee, 22, another young professional who lives in Adelaide, Australia, cites cost as the reason for her personal rejection of the business casual look. “I think it’s just more me… I don’t want to spend a certain amount of money to get corporate clothes that I’m going to wear during my 9 to 5.” The shift of fashion trends has also led to corporate wear being worn as streetwear, thus blurring the lines between business casual and casual.
But how can companies adapt to this up and coming generation? How can they meet their needs and make things better?
While some argue Gen-Z’s value of mental health is a weakness, 90% of employers reported increasing their investment in mental health programs, 76% increased investment in stress management and resilience programs, and 71% increased investment in mindfulness and meditation programs. Companies are also implementing team building programs and mentorship in order to increase moral and interpersonal relationships within the workplace, all thanks to Gen-Z.
The reason that zoomers are able to advocate for themselves and their wants is in part because of the fact that they are the generation with the highest rates of depression and anxiety. They need to be optimistic about the future because they saw what happened to their predecessors. This is a generation coming to adulthood during a global pandemic, in a period of unprecedented social isolation and widespread economic insecurity.
It is important to note that every generation has been met with some flack once they entered into adulthood. Generation X were the complainers, Millennials were crybabies, and so on and so forth. But that does not stop them from passing judgements on the ones that follow. The question is, will Gen-Zers continue the cycle and pass the “snowflake” title onto the next generation? Or will their increased liberalism and want for self-expression be enough to break the chain?