The Burn Is Real: Why Are Gen Zers Struggling?

Arianna Freni
Reviewed by psychologist Ida Dommerholt
young generation gen Z
Over the past few years, burnout has been on the rise among young generations worldwide. A growing number of young and very young employees feel exhausted, are losing productivity, and are experiencing mental disengagement even in the early stages of their careers.

 

This feeling of discontent is largely backed up by data according to which 65 per cent of Gen Zers plan to join the great resignation to preserve their mental well-being. On the other hand, organisations should act urgently to attract and retain talent by prioritising work-life balance, providing learning and growth opportunities, and ensuring a safe and inclusive workplace.

 

The burnout generation

 

Born after 1996, Gen Z is the generation best known for being socially conscious, determined to drive change, politically active, and more financially independent than the previous ones.

“Generation Z is also the first online generation”, explains psychologist Ida Dommerholt. “One big topic for Gen Zers is creating a stronger impact than previous generations. There is an urgency to contribute significantly to the community, combined with the pressure to achieve unique things.”

This reputation, however, comes at a cost: Gen Zers are reportedly more likely to experience stress and fatigue and feel disengaged by their work and adult-life responsibilities.

 

According to a 2022 report from Deloitte, four in ten Gen Zers would like to leave their jobs within two years as they struggle with financial anxiety, lack of work-life balance, and persistently high-stress levels.

 

In another survey by Indeed, it appears that Millennials and Gen Z employees not only show higher rates of burnout compared to the previous generations, but for Gen Z in particular this rate has rapidly worsened, with 58 per cent reporting burnout in 2021, compared to 47 per cent in 2020.

 

Further research confirms this trend that 46 per cent of Gen Z workers aged between 18 and 25 feel fatigued and drained after a day at the office. In addition, both millennials and Generation Z workers reported feeling helpless and lonely due to work pressures.

“There are a lot of possible factors that come together”, clarifies Ida. “This generation appears to express less tolerance and endurance for self-induced misery. Awareness about the importance of mental health and the potential effects of malpractices is widespread. A generation known for their activism won’t hesitate to take action in their own life.”

Notably, there is a strong demand for more flexible hybrid working and inclusive cultures where mental health and well-being are clear priorities. Similarly, work-life balance is a top concern when choosing a new job, as Gen Zers prefer to work for companies that care about their employees’ well-being.

 

👉 Also interesting to read: Why Investing in Mental Health Attracts Talent (and How to Do It)

“On the other hand, there is the factor of instant gratification. While earlier generations got used to waiting, being bored and enduring slight discomfort, this generation might have had to deal with it far less and is therefore also less resilient to it.”

Designing meaningful changes

 

As often happens, challenging situations can plant the seed for positive changes. This sense of discomfort has bred a generation that doesn’t settle and, instead, challenges the status quo of the current workplace. As an organisation, this is an opportunity to reinvent work in ways that address employees’ needs and strengthen organisations’ ability to recruit and retain talent.

 

The goal for employers is to create a better work-life balance and offer flexible working arrangements that enable employees to feel like they belong regardless of where they physically work.

 

Similarly, leaders ought to foster a supportive, stigma-free environment where employees can speak openly about mental health issues and managers can direct them to the necessary resources.

 

⚡️ You might like: Six steps to a sustainably employed workforce

 

Ultimately, to attract and retain young talent, companies need to re-discover what they have to offer and raise their current standards to match the demands and the values of this new, influential generation.