I was reading the latest issue of McLean’s magazine this past week while enjoying a delicious weekend breakfast. It’s one of my favorite routines. The cover story was titled “You’re Wrong About Gen Z ”. It provides examples and statistics showing how young people are pushing back against long work hours in favor of “saner, happier, healthier working lives.”
The article is compelling and very well written. However, there’s a few things that don’t sit right with me.
First, I completely agree with the premise of rethinking how we approach work. There’s way too many people working long hours and not getting much done. I’m skeptical that you can get more than a few hours of creative work daily which means that the majority of people are engaging in work which could be discarded or automated.
Second, the article portrays Gen Z in an almost messiah manner. They are “saving work” for the rest of us. In reality, research shows individuals of all ages are changing their working habits and how work gets done. Look at how many people simply retired after the pandemic. Gen Z isn’t the only one thinking about the future of work.
Third, I struggle with all the generational stuff. People are individuals. I’m sure you can find Gen Z’s who want to work longer hours or those who do not want to work at all. Our world loves to categorize large groups of people though. I think these labels are more harmful than helpful but that’s just me.
Putting those points aside, companies need to seriously think about how work gets done. Trends like remote work and custom compensation packages are here to stay. The best companies are exploring ideas like a 4-day workweek, limits on communication during weekends and moving towards measuring performance on outcomes.
There’s no right answers here as every company is different but changes are needed. It’s not just to attract younger people but to attract the best talent possible.
Companies who do not make these changes are like dinosaurs in their own version of the Don’t Look Up film from Netflix. They are pretending that nothing has changed after the pandemic instead of seeing the huge asteroid headed towards them.
Perhaps Gen Z’s see themselves as the people warning others of asteroids. They don’t notice that there’s plenty of other people doing that already.
Photo by Vaibhav Pixels