Gen-Z want flexibility: The lowdown on this summer’s viral TikTok video

A TikTok influencer has said that workers should clock fewer hours, work from home and make comfortable salaries. Her comments went viral and spawned a series of online debates. But why? Is she asking for too much, or simply setting out a new generational mindset?

The effect of the pandemic on traditional office life was immediate and obvious. Hybrid working surged, presenteeism dropped, and many people have been reporting a better work-life balance ever since.

But it is perhaps with Gen Z where the repercussions have been felt most keenly – and they are only just beginning to emerge. As this new generation enters the workforce they are increasingly turning their backs on the ‘grindset’ mentalities we’ve seen in recent years. They have witnessed overwork and burnout, and it doesn’t appeal. Instead, they are bringing with them a unique view on work-life balance that encompasses total flexibility, good pay, and the time and energy to enjoy life.

Fully remote

Influencer Gabrielle Judge states in her viral TikTok video that “there are lots of jobs out there where you could make, like, 60 to 80K and not do that much work and be remote”. And while the ‘not do that much work’ part may be a combination of idealism and naivety, the nod to flexibility is instructive. Judge’s comments blur the natural link we make between hours spent working and productivity, and with more than 344,000 likes so far, it seems she has gained many supporters.

Indeed, job search site Adzuna reported “a surge in interest for positions with more perceived flexibility and less stress but an above-average salary”, such as administrative roles. Job search platform Flexa also recently reported a 21% rise in the number of searches for fully remote roles.

What’s behind the trend

Workers’ priorities have changed since the pandemic. Work-life balance is now one of the most important aspects of a career, and flexibility is expected. IWG research found 88% of workers say that flexible working arrangements are essential for a more fulfilling professional life. And what’s more, 55% of Gen Z workers said they expect the four-day week to become the norm in the next few years.

There are numerous reasons why this attitude has gained traction – high profile trials of the four-day week for example, big companies going hybrid. It might also stem the talent shortage caused by the Great Resignation of 2021, when record numbers of people started handing in their notice. According to Manpower Group, in 2022, 75% of companies globally reported difficulty hiring – the highest in sixteen years. So it naturally follows that new workers coming into the job market might feel confident enough to lay out some clear guidelines about what they want. Businesses are having to prioritise wellbeing in the race for talent.

Productivity meets personal time

Forward-thinking companies need to roll with the generational changes. Many businesses have made their post-pandemic hybrid working arrangements permanent, and there is now plenty of evidence available to support the move, both from a financial and health perspective.

Professor Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University, a world-leading thinker on the future of work, says hybrid increases productivity by around 3% or 4% which can be significant for the bottom line. Companies have also recognised the opportunity to save money on real estate by signing up to coworking and flexspaces rather than paying for large city centre HQs. Perhaps more appealing for Judge and her cohorts, is that hybrid gives people their time back. The average hybrid worker is now getting 4.7 hours of exercise a week, compared to 3.4 hours before the pandemic, and they are also sleeping longer, with the additional time in bed each morning equating to 71 extra hours – or three days of sleep a year.

So when Judge called for fewer hours, the ability to work from home and make a comfortable salary perhaps she wasn’t asking for a lot at all. She is just one of a growing number of savvy workers who actively prioritise their wellbeing.

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