Today’s offices poten­tial­ly span five full gen­er­a­tions rang­ing from Gen­er­a­tion Z to the Silent Gen­er­a­tion. A cowork­er could just as eas­i­ly be raised with a smart phone in hand as they could have used a type­writer at their first job. Some see dif­fer­ences between gen­er­a­tional col­leagues as an annoy­ance (“kids these days!”) and many rely on gen­er­a­tional stereo­types as fact. The truth of that mat­ter is that gen­er­a­tional stereo­types have about as many holes in them as a piece of Swiss cheese. Cur­rent research ques­tions the valid­i­ty of gen­er­a­tional stereo­types. This five-part series uncov­ers top gen­er­a­tional myths as a strat­e­gy to sup­port a diverse and healthy employ­ee population.

Let’s start with the green­est part of the work­force: Gen­er­a­tion Z. This cohort was born between 1997 and 2012 and the elders of this group turn 25 this year. The top three myths of Gen Z include:

  1. Their inter­est in work­place flex­i­bil­i­ty is fueled by the desire for remote work. Work­place flex­i­bil­i­ty refers to how, when and where work gets accom­plished. His­tor­i­cal lit­er­a­ture pegs Gen­er­a­tion Z as a group keen to choose when and where they com­plete their work. A recent sur­vey com­plet­ed by Annemarie Hayek, Pres­i­dent and Founder of Glob­al Mosa­ic, refut­ed this pri­or claim with data. It showed less than a third want a ful­ly remote posi­tion. More excit­ing to Gen­er­a­tion Z? Com­pen­sa­tion and hav­ing their opin­ions heard by leadership.
  2. Men­tal health ben­e­fits fall into the “nice to have” cat­e­go­ry. Gen­er­a­tion Z felt the effects of the pan­dem­ic men­tal health cri­sis and val­ue qual­i­ty health­care. The Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health study pre­dicts that one third of today’s teenagers will expe­ri­ence men­tal health dif­fi­cul­ties relat­ed to anx­i­ety. Pri­or gen­er­a­tions may hear “men­tal health” and think of fluffy well­ness pro­grams, but Gen Z sees it as so much more than a webi­nar on work-life bal­ance. While this attribute is shared with Mil­len­ni­al col­leagues, this group is more active in com­mu­ni­cat­ing their needs with man­agers and peers. No shy­ing away from uncom­fort­able con­ver­sa­tions here! Men­tal health was an ongo­ing con­ver­sa­tion in their youth. For this rea­son, they are real­is­tic about the hard costs and pri­or­i­tize ther­a­py and paid time off benefits.
  3. They are uncom­fort­able with face-to-face con­ver­sa­tions. This gen­er­a­tion was raised with tech­nol­o­gy at their fin­ger­tips and social media omnipresent, so many assume they rely on text for all pro­fes­sion­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions. This com­mon mis­con­cep­tion does not pan out, says Ryan Jenk­ins, Inc. colum­nist and gen­er­a­tional expert. Data shows that 84% of Gen Z favor live com­mu­ni­ca­tion with their boss­es. This group does not hide behind a screen in or out of the office. Gen­er­a­tion Z was raised in an ever-chang­ing sociopo­lit­i­cal envi­ron­ment that includ­ed school shoot­ings, eco­nom­ic reces­sions, and increased focus on cli­mate change. Because of this ear­ly expo­sure, they are com­fort­able activists, and they bring this social aware­ness to work.

Despite what you may have heard, the major­i­ty of Gen­er­a­tion Z isn’t opposed to work­ing in the office. They pri­or­i­tize “hard” men­tal health ben­e­fits and pre­fer live con­ver­sa­tions with their managers.

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