Work place changing to meet Gen Z expectations

With high school and college graduations behind us, what is the future for Generation Z (zoomers) students and graduates (born 1997 to 2012) who are about to hit the job market?

These zoomers represent 20 percent of the U.S. population or 64.6 million people. By 2030, they are expected to power 20 percent of the workforce.

There are three zoomer work trends that define their relationship with work: increasing participation and presence in the workforce; balancing work and personal well-being; and incorporating technology to increase work-life flexibility.

First, this April, The Economist reported that the number of zoomers working full time is about to overtake the number of full-time working baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964), who are retiring from their careers. In the U.S., zoomers are holding positions of power with 6,000 chief executives and 1,000 politicians. Their voting bloc can shift future policies within business, government and the world.

With the increased cost of attending college, zoomers in the U.S. and Britain have been prioritizing education and experiences that lead to immediate employment. There is a trend away from liberal arts majors and toward engineering and economics to develop workforce skills.

Also, vocational jobs are growing as a popular choice instead of college (or to gain experience before college) to work in a range of sectors and earn higher pay. This week’s Wall Street Journal included a feature story titled, “Gen Z Plumbers and Construction Workers #BlueCollarCool.” It profiles one electrician with 2.2 million followers on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook watching her work.

Pop culture also illustrates the zoomers’ growth in the job market. The song, “good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo, laments that a former boyfriend’s “career is really taking off.” In Beyonce’s song, “Break My Soul,” she sings, “I just quit my job” to highlight the chance to leave a dead-end job and make more money elsewhere.

Increasing wages and job opportunities is coined “the young person’s premium.” Hourly pay growth in the U.S. grew 13 percent among 16- to 24-year-olds, compared with 6 percent for workers ages 25-54, according to The Economist. In fact, the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy research organization, explains that zoomers, with many coming into the workforce during the pandemic, are much better off than millennials (born 1981-1996) at their same age, who entered the job market during the 2008 global financial crisis.

Regarding work-life balance, zoomers are redefining how they work and what work should be. They are focused on personal well-being, as an integral factor to their career goals. Avoiding burnout is a priority that many zoomers are aiming to refine.

Zoomers are pushing back against the prior generation’s social forces and established work dynamics. The Economist explains the concept “quiet quitting,” as normalizing minimal effort to avoid getting fired. Also, U.S. News Money details the term, “bare minimum Monday,” as slowly starting the workweek to avoid burnout from what many believe is an unrealistic workload to tackle throughout the week.

A recent paper published by the International Monetary Fund explains that zoomers want to work fewer hours than their older counterparts. The Economist compared the changes in Americans’ commitment to work (ages 15-24) over a 15-year span. In 2022, zoomers spent 25 percent less time on “working and on work-related activities,” compared to their 2007 Millennial counterparts.

Also, the role of working women has noticeable differences between millennials and zoomers in both professional and social environments. The Economist contrasts the millennial term, “girl boss,” as an attitude to play and conquer within the typical corporate male world. Comparatively, the Gen Z term, “snail girls,” illustrates the priority to slowly add responsibility that allows for more time to focus on self-care.

This past December, The Wall Street Journal wrote a feature story titled, “Stay-at-Home-Girlfriends are Having a Moment” (acronym SAHG), that prioritizes less working and more self-care. The article includes the phrase “zillenial finance” that does not stigmatize being financially dependent on someone else.

Finally, Fortune reported in June that 70 percent of zoomers prefer flexible work schedules. Zoomers are comfortable with remote and hybrid work as part of their professional interactions, having grown up with social media and pandemic Zoom learning. They incorporate technology and use artificial intelligence as integral to working both individually and with groups.

There is even a new real estate trend addressing zoomers’ influence on work. Offices are being designed with new technologies that build community. The architectural and engineering firm, Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, explains that fostering teamwork incorporates interactive physical spaces, augmented reality and virtual reality.

Zoomers are crafting work to drive their needs.

(Margo Bartsch founded College Essay Coach, a full-service college admission business, and has been an adjunct professor in business at Champlain College and at Middlebury College.)