Technology Fuels Gen Z. But Can that Energy Be Sustained?

Gen Z’s reliance on technology is not news. And neither is the vital role technology will play in their future workplace. Just last spring, we wrote an article discussing this very subject where we dove into strategies to facilitate communication in our most tech-savvy generation.

And while these conversations are important, there’s another conversation that still needs to take shape: what to do if Gen Z’s love for tech impedes their desire for work-life balance. A desire that is among their top workplace concerns, according to an SMMA survey of high school students across Massachusetts.

Because of technology’s impact on Gen Z’s development, managing work-life balance will likely prove more difficult than it has for past generations. More than any generation before them, Gen Z experiences the world from a “plugged-in” perspective.

 

Social media constantly connects them with their peers, which can prompt a culture of comparison that heightens social anxiety. Emails and texts come into Gen Zers' phones at all times of day, alerting students of updates from teachers, classmates, and sports coaches. Class website pages and academic online portals let students constantly tap into digital learning environments. With this level of relentless communication, stress levels can skyrocket as Gen Z struggles to keep up with what can seem like an unending round of requests and expectations.

Expectation of Constant Connection

When the Gen Zer enters the corporate environment, this expectation of constant connection will hinder efforts to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Gen Z, unlikely to break old habits, may find it difficult to “unplug” after work and will instead likely continue to check emails, refer to earlier correspondence and re-visit sources of frustration through remote log-in.

Pushing against these instincts would be counterproductive with Gen Z. These instincts are informed by a lifetime of constant connectivity; without it, the Gen Zer might feel lost. Moreover, this connectivity can contribute to innovative off-the-clock ideas and help ensure Gen Zers feel their voices are heard.

Emphasize Stress Relief

Instead of working against ingrained habits, workplace designers, human resources professionals, and corporate office planners all need to commit to spaces that emphasizes stress relief. Account for the Gen Zer’s tendency to stay connected by creating spaces within the office that relieve stress so that home-work is sparked by enthusiasm rather than anxiety and employees can seamlessly transition from one environment to the other. 

Left: Employees from Cramer enjoy themselves at a baseball-themed all-staff meeting on the Boston Red Sox's 2018 Opening Day.

Other design strategies for success might involve:

  • Moving beyond your typical wellness room or office cafeteria with small spaces that encourage stress relief, such as a game room with chess or backgammon.
  • Prioritizing fitness space; Gen Z will be coming from colleges and universities where high-quality workout spaces were readily available as a stress reliever. A treadmill desk that employees can reserve and designated space for yoga can go a long way for companies that cannot afford a full fitness center.
  • Encouraging healthy eating by including fruits, veggies and smoothie makers in break rooms. Healthy snacks remind employees that their well-being matters and also encourage them to practice self-care even when at the office.  

When we work with the Gen Zer’s inclination for connectivity, rather than against it, productivity will thrive and Gen Z will achieve the balance they seek.