OPINION: 'Gen Z are accused of being 'lazy' at work. They're saving our mental health.'

Nobody wants to work anymore.

Or is it that nobody wants to sacrifice their health for their work anymore?

First, they came for our side-parts, then they taunted us with the resurrection of low-rise jeans, now they're demanding a more balanced work life.

Say what you will about Gen Z, but the kids know what they want and if they don't get it, they'll move right onto the next.

A new report from Employment Hero has revealed that 75 per cent of Gen Z employees expect their employer to provide mental health support which can include anything from mental health leave, to Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). And while this could prove challenging on the eve of a recession, especially for small business owners, it's also, in this climate, a non-negotiable.

Increasingly, our work lives have become completely intertwined with our identities, and the demand for giving more and more of yourself to your work has reached a point of no return. Hustle culture has done a number on Millennials, and the burn-out rates are no joke.

Watch: Women from the Mamamia office open up about the last time they cried in the workplace. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

The fact is, post-pandemic, mid-cost-of-living-crisis, and pre-recession, the kids are not okay. None of us are, and if lockdowns taught us anything, it was how utterly out of balance we had let our lives become. 

Enter Gen Z - a generation with a refreshingly open attitude towards both gender identity and mental health which extends to their expectations in the workplace. From displaying pronouns up front in email signatures to openly discussing anxiety disorders with superiors, the changes being ushered in by this generation are the kind this burnt-out Millennial is overjoyed to be seeing.


Companies are also rising to the occasion. Independent publishing house Hardie Grant recently stunned with their new leave policies including gender transition leave, menstrual leave and pet illness leave. But while these kinds of policies may attract good quality workers, according to the same employment hero report, three quarters of Gen Z employees have plans to move on from their current workplace within just two years.

You might think that is a pretty high attrition rate, but in fact, it's pretty close to the rates at which boomers changed jobs in the first part of their careers.

As pioneers of the 'quiet quitting' movement, Gen Z workers famously aren't shy about showing up for themselves when it comes to making their work, work for them.

To some, this reads as laziness, as a lack of loyalty, or an unwillingness to do what it takes to get ahead. But you have to wonder if their behaviour is being scored against a rather toxic kind of 'rise and grind' attitude, without which just a decade ago, you would be laughed out of an interview room.

Is that old toxic productivity approach really what we should be fighting to maintain? The fact is, we can't keep going the way we've been going without risking some serious consequences. I'm talking a rise in autoimmune diseases along with other stress-related illnesses, and off the charts levels of burnout.

Of course, being in the early stages of their careers, the vast majority of Gen Z workers are employees and not business owners. And from the perspective of those actually running the companies, especially small businesses, after the dumpster fire that was the past three years, this might not sound like good news.


It's understandable if companies that are already struggling to play catch up after relentless pandemic lockdowns aren't exactly jumping at the idea of adding new reasons for their staff to take paid days off. Workers, especially those new to the workforces simply cannot position small businesses in the same category as larger corporations, and therefore expect the same kinds of benefits. They don't have the capacity for such extensive leave policies and cannot compete with what’s on offer from larger corporations.

But working for a small business can have its own positive impact on wellbeing, with more opportunities to move up the ladder faster, getting personal mentorship from those in charge, and less complicated red tape to sort through.

Listen to 8 Minutes To Change Your (Work) Life where we explain how you can improve your workspace (and have an improved work life) in a few easy steps. Post continues below.

The other thing Gen Z is leading is the growth of the gig economy. Many workers are rocking multiple casual engagements or adding side hustles to their income stream. This way of essentially being your own boss in a company of one leaves the working conditions entirely in the worker's hands and could be a giant leap in the movement for a better work-life balance.

A lot has changed since COVID-19 turned our world inside out and as we charge forward, a new generation is just kicking off their careers. It's abundantly clear something's gotta give in the way we approach our work-lives and Gen Z might just be leading the charge in the right direction.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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