12 March 2024

The workforce is constantly evolving in line with demographics and market conditions, but the advent of the online generation – Gen Z – along with a broader shift in work and values is poised to bring a seismic shift. Generation Z is about to make a significant impact on the workforce, with projections indicating they will account for 27% of the workforce by 2025

As any parent knows, younger people develop their own habits and approaches to work and life – and expecting them to follow the way things have always been done can be a losing battle. As the new generation takes on a larger role in the workforce and society, businesses and employers will need to understand Gen Z's unique values and expectations to adapt workplace cultures and policies accordingly.

In particular, their preferences for diversity, inclusiveness, and a positive work culture, combined with a strong emphasis on mental health and social values, will play a major role in shaping the future of organisational environments​​. Companies that can effectively adapt to these needs have an opportunity to take advantage of the best aspects of these changes, as well as attracting the brightest upcoming talent.


The Digital Native's Perspective

While the advent of the online world of work has had a steady creep across all workers, Gen Z's from-birth upbringing in a digital-first environment inevitably informs their approach to work and life, setting them apart as the first true digital natives.

In the first instance, this affects when, how and where they prefer to work. As a generation that has grown up with digital tools as the norm – not to mention the seismic shift of pandemic working, research consistently shows that across countries and regardless of demographic information, Gen Zs and millennials prefer hybrid work. While many businesses have adopted elements of this work style in the wake of the pandemic, this goes beyond a ‘nice-to-have’ for this generation.

  • Regardless of industry, companies will need to offer working practices and tools that suit this generation.
  • Expecting young people to adapt to the previous generations’ practices just ‘because’ risks falling on deaf ears – especially for a generation who pride themselves as distinct and independent when it comes to setting new norms.
  • This touches on more than tools and software but also working culture and management styles.

Digital proficiency will not just be about leveraging technology for efficiency but also about expecting a workplace that mirrors their online, interconnected experiences, including the way you approach community and communication.


Flexibility and Work-Life Balance

Flexibility is no longer a perk but a fundamental expectation for Gen Z in the UK. Their desire for a balanced life, where work does not impinge upon personal time, is reshaping the traditional 9-5 work model.

To compete for Gen Z workers, UK businesses will now be challenged to offer more adaptable working arrangements, including remote work options as standard. This is more than just buying a Zoom subscription: rotas, communication and performance evaluation all need to evolve in a world with less face-to-face time.

This will be particularly challenging for businesses taking on new entrants to the workforce – rather than simply expecting training and growth to happen by face-to-face osmosis, firms will need to take a proactive approach to onboarding, integration and mentoring to ensure joiners are equipped to succeed.


The Value of Wellbeing and Mental Health

The bleed of the personal into the workplace has been one of the more notable shifts in culture over the last decade. Increasingly, workers want to be able to express their individuality at work, including their internal needs. Gen Z's openness about mental health issues and the importance of wellbeing is prompting a shift in how businesses approach employee support.

  • 1 in 3 Gen Z employees say they've experienced a mental health problem – and becoming more comfortable and engaged with the holistic wellbeing of your team will be a key part of getting the best out of them.
  • UK companies are increasingly required to provide comprehensive support programs, recognising that mental health is as critical as physical health.

This generation's willingness to discuss and address mental health challenges openly is a potentially uncomfortable challenge for businesses to foster a supportive and inclusive work environment, but also an opportunity to take a broader role in your team’s wellbeing.


Prioritising Authenticity and Ethical Practices

As is a trend in recent generations, modern workers are demanding more from their employer – not just in matters that affect them, but also others. 83% of Gen Z workers say that workplace diversity matters and around 33% declare they wouldn't apply for a job in a company where diversity is not considered.


Gen Z's demand for authenticity extends beyond marketing into the fabric of business operations. They seek to align with organisations that not only talk about ethical practices and sustainability but also actively incorporate these principles. While this is a new frontier, this is an opportunity for businesses to consider how to demonstrate their commitment to social and environmental causes in tangible ways. This doesn’t mean every business has to have a mission to change the world, but this can start with small things such as:

  • Including a diversity and equity policy in hiring practices
  • Implementing green initiatives in the office regarding resource use
  • Allocating a share of team resources – say, one paid day a quarter, to be used to give back

Thinking ahead with Haines Watts

While the shift to Gen Z values feels like a big change, you can rest assured that every business will be facing the same challenges. Our advisors work with companies of all shapes and sizes, helping to track and implement the latest best practices and share insights on the changing world of work.

If you’re looking for an advisor with their finger on the pulse, why not get in touch with one of our team today?