Jabra Research Shows That Gen Z (26-and-Unders) Are Unhappy at Work

jabra new research jan 24

New research from Jabra found that the return to office continues to impact working preferences — especially among Generation Z (those age 26 and under). The research was quite surprising in some cases but also predictable in others.

Some unwritten rules seem to have been overturned as the newest generation enters our working world. Flexibility (35%) now exceeds salary (4%) for Gen Z when rating factors are considered when choosing a job: the highest ranking amongst all surveyed generations. This finding is included in Jabra’s newest report, Mind the Gap – How Gen Z is Disrupting the Workplace in 2024, which looks at work across generations, carried out among 4,473 people in 14 markets worldwide.

Results noted that many generational differences were not just evolved workforce preferences from year-to-year, but total paradoxes. 52% of Gen Z respondents feel stressed and experience symptoms of burnout due to work, yet simultaneously report they are more satisfied with their job compared to other generations, with more than 7 in 10 feeling satisfied.

As Gen Z and millennials currently make up approximately 38% of the global workforce, with this percentage expected to rise to about 58% by 2030, leaders must learn to understand the shift in their employees’ mindsets, attitudes, and values to unlock full collaborative potential.

Paradox 1: Gen Z might be happy, but they already have one foot out the door

The conditions in which Gen Z entered the job market (online and work-from-home) reflect their digital native nature. This generation is considered the most flexible work-driven, with 89% working in jobs that allow them to choose their own schedules. However, Gen Z respondents say they are happy at work, but are also looking for an exit strategy.

More than 70% of respondents say they are satisfied, but 52% say they are burnt out and 48% expect to change jobs in the next year. Whether this is an extension of the “quiet quitting” trend or down to the 74% of Gen Z believing in changing jobs as a career development driver is yet to be concluded.

Paradox 2: Can Gen Z get flexibility, work-life balance, and a career all at once?

Gen Z is often branded as the generation that wants it all: career development, flexibility, and work-life balance. While often thought to prioritize personal life over work, 43% of Gen Z respondents prioritize their careers over work-life balance. However, work-life balance is also considered a top measure (27%) of success at work.

Gen Z was also found to be twice as likely as Gen X and boomers to select social media as an influence on expectations on career (24%). There is a question mark over social media’s role played in illustrating that ‘anything is achievable’, making the ‘lazy girl job’ status so desirable. So, is Gen Z in for a rude awakening or will their drive result in finding the sweet spot that appealed to generations before when it comes to work-life balance?

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Paradox 3: A hybrid workforce that wants face-to-face time

Hybrid working has helped many with work-life balance, particularly suiting digital-native Gen Z. When asked what makes them feel connected with their colleagues at work, 34% of Gen Z found face-to-face with their peers and manager a key factor, even when communication occurs through video. 1 in 3 of all generations found face-to-face collaboration the most important factor, as well.

However, due to digital comfortability, Gen Z is happier to rely on technology to allow them to keep in contact and feel connected with their colleagues. This could explain why more than half of boomers, Gen X and millennials see communication in-person as the top driver to sense of belonging, while just 45% of Gen Z gave it a top ranking.

Paradox 4: Gen Z keeps silent, but expect the opposite of managers

Despite Gen Z’s reputation for being comfortable speaking up about difficult topics, such as mental health and diversity, the data finds that 36% of Gen Z feel uncomfortable taking up conversations about feeling unhappy at work with their manager. Despite not wanting to discuss these issues, when asked what the most important qualities in a manager are, today’s employees value soft skills over hard skills. Gen Z would rather have an empathetic manager (38%) than an experienced one (9%), while honesty and integrity is five times more important than experience.

As employees enter management positions at a younger age, organizations may see a shift in the skills needed for a managerial role and consequently, management styles. This can be seen by Gen Z respondents ranking friendliness significantly higher than other generations, with 33% of Gen Z considering it an important quality, and only 23% of other generations noting it a top quality, respectively.

Paul Sephton, Head of Brand Communications at Jabra said, “We’ve never experienced a time with such stark generational differences when it comes to our core understanding of work and a job. It’s critical leaders understand the complex paradoxes of how younger generations feel about the working world. Going forward, companies need to consider what consequences the Gen Z mindset could have on the workforce of the future. Providing young employees with the necessary tools, both technical and psychological, to maximize wellbeing and productivity will be a non-negotiable for those striving for long-term success.”