Generation Z employees are redefining work attitudes and expectations in  the fast-changing corporate environment where traditional ideas clash with new working methods. Contrary to assumptions that they will be an extension of Millennials, studies suggest that Gen Z will bring about significant changes in the workforce.

A senior manager at a media company said that managing youngsters in the team is a difficult task. “They come with a sense of entitlement. They also do not have much respect for some of the office policies like marking attendance regularly or working from office. This is different from the time when we started working. We were grateful to get the job but now there are options available to freshers.”

Gen Z professionals say that what the managers see as entitlement is about demanding fairness in workplace. “Our parents had it different; they had to struggle more. So, our sense of entitlement is relative. What they see as entitlement, we see as knowing our worth and demanding fairness,” said Harshdeep, a Mumbai-based Gen Z professional.

Microsoft has found in a global survey that Gen Z is 77 per cent  more likely to interact with a job posting on LinkedIn if it includes the word “flexibility”. While generational differences are often highlighted, Seema, a data analyst from Hyderabad, finds that in her team, which has an upper age limit of 31 years, the primary distinction lies in family responsibilities rather than work attitudes. “The older employees tend to have added family responsibilities, whereas the younger crowd adopts more flexible work timings,” she notes. This flexibility is a hallmark of Gen Z, reflecting their preference for work-life balance and adaptability.

She appreciates her company’s efforts to support this balance through facilities like gyms and workshops, emphasizing the need for companies to respect personal time and boundaries.

Sudeep, a financial advisor, suggests that loving one’s work can diminish the need for strict work-life boundaries. “If I really like the work, I don’t need free time as such because my work becomes my life,” he states. However, he acknowledges that flexible working hours and approachable management are essential for those who prioritize balance.

Company policies and flexibility

ADP Research Institute recently conducted a survey revealing that many employees would quit if an employer demanded a full-time return to the office. Gen Z employees call for more flexibility and less formality in the workplace. Seema highlights the need for flexible hours and a more informal work environment. “I put out my best work when it’s a little more informal,” she shares.

Harshdeep echoes this sentiment, criticizing rigid policies that force unnecessary office attendance. “It shouldn’t matter how many hours I work as long as I’m getting the work done on time,” he argues.

Gen Z’ers, whom businessline spoke to, rank workplace flexibility, meaningful work, and career development as more important than compensation. Compare that with boomers, who rank compensation first.

Post-pandemic work culture

Starting careers during the pandemic has shaped Gen Z’s workplace views significantly. Seema laments the lack of in-person interaction, which she believes hampers relationship-building and overall learning. “I don’t have a very great relationship with a lot of colleagues and managers because I am only interacting with a total of three people,” she says. The perception of Gen Z’s entitlement often stems from their confidence in their skills and demands for fairness. Seema asserts, “We are very well aware of our skill set and what is fair for us, which can be perceived as entitlement.” Harshdeep adds that this confidence can be mistaken for laziness or lack of seriousness about work. “We might seem entitled because we know our worth and aren’t afraid to demand it,” he clarifies.

Mental health is a priority for Gen Z, who advocate for better support systems in the workplace. Seema finds therapy essential for her performance and calls for companies to provide free therapy sessions. “It’s important for companies to start providing free therapy,” she urges. Sudeep agrees, suggesting a quota of free therapy sessions sponsored by the company. “This should not be part of the package but an additional benefit,” he recommends. Harshdeep emphasizes the need for safe spaces and no tolerance for harassment, believing these measures contribute significantly to mental well-being.

Gen Z expects companies to continue evolving with the times. They call for better pay, flexible work hours, and interesting work that aligns with their skills and interests.

Harshdeep highlights the importance of empowerment and accountability in retaining young talent. “Employees should be given freedom and accountability. Let them take initiative and control,” he advises.

As Gen Z continues to assert its presence, understanding and addressing its unique needs and expectations will be crucial for fostering a productive and harmonious work environment. The generational divide may be challenging, but it also presents an opportunity for growth and innovation in how we approach work and employee satisfaction.

(The writer is interning with businessline)