“It’s not about people not working, it’s about not settling for a job that diminishes their quality of life.” Dakota, 21, U.S.
Work culture is changing alongside young people’s attitude towards it. Despite increased access to education, todays’ younger generation is up against it, establishing careers and creating opportunity amidst a global pandemic, high inflation, a frailing capitalist system, and the threat of economic recession. And with growing numbers of young people feeling over-worked and under-appreciated (AND still broke), it’s no surprise that there is a shifting attitude toward work and careers. For 52INSIGHTS this week, we’re exploring the trends of the new world of work - the different drivers impacting the new expectations of work, the type of work young people want to do and who they want to work for.
WHY IS EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT QUIET QUITTING?
“You’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is, it’s not and your worth as a person is not defined by your labour.” Zaid Khan via TikTok
Following on from The Great Resignation of spring 2022, there continues to be an increasingly frustrated workforce of young employees. Not seeing the pay-off from the more recent culture of work hustle, 61% of young people are most concerned about finances, job security and failing to meet their career goals in the next 10 years. Enter the phenomenon of ‘Quiet Quitting’, an attitude towards work that kickstarted and exploded on TikTok. The idea is not to actually quit your job - instead, the basic principle is to not overwork. For many, this means maintaining a better work/life balance - performing all your duties and tasks but just not going out of your way to go ‘above and beyond’ or do anything extra. For some, quiet quitting might also mean doing the bare minimum. Employees only doing tasks within allocated hours is causing some employers ‘to freak out’. The reaction from older generations (specifically those who adopt the attitude of young generations today lacking ‘grit’) are calling it coasting or a bad idea. However, at the heart of it all, is the realisation that work is just one aspect of a balanced life and not as mission critical to success and fulfillment in the way that Millennials would have regarded work in the last 10-15 years - “None of this is about “burnout” or “rejecting hustle culture” - it’s multiple generations realising that there is no incentive to do more work than they are told to, because there is no reason to.” - Ed Zitron (source)
REASSESSING THE ROLE OF WORK IN LIFE
The strive for greater freedom means freelancing is more and more aspirational - almost 50% of U.S. young people, aged 18 to 24, have done some form of freelance work, doing jobs that have never existed before (like freelance NFT expert). Self-employment trends continue to rise - it is expected that half of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing by 2027. The grass isn’t always greener (many warn about the woe that is the invoice chase) - “This is the time of the freelance month when organisations make you feel like an idiot for having worked for them. It's a week since last month ended; do I really have to chase you?” - Nii - but young freelancers are willing to sacrifice security and employee benefits in return for earning more cash and flexibility.
“My mental health and my happiness matters more than my salary, but at the same time, I can’t afford to not have a job because I’ve got bills to pay and two kids to support. I want to work with people who understand that I’m a human being and don’t expect me to be a corporate slave.” - Nikki, 27, US
After all the changes the world has gone through, many people are being more selective about the work they do, balancing the cost of living as much as the cost of the working. In Ireland, for example, there are huge challenges with hiring young teachers in cities like Dublin as the cost of living is too high, salaries too low, and access to rented accommodation virtually non-existent. In other sectors such as hospitality and transport, there are massive staff shortage issues. Unsecure positions and poorly paid roles that impact general wellbeing, particularly mental health, are simply not worth the effort - e.g. 80% of UK hospitality staff report mental health issues due to anti-social hours and pressure cited:
“I worked 12-hour shifts with no lunch or dinner. I was up all night and slept all day, and with that, normal things you take for granted just disappear.” - Jasmin, 25, UK
ORGANISING & VOICING OUT FOR FAIRNESS
“Because of the cost of living crisis and inflation being so high, to be denied a pay rise for the third year in a row has really made people think, what are we doing wrong? Why are we not being treated as well as we were before COVID? - Niamh, 23, UK
It will come as no surprise that the dramatic inflation rates are impacting work and employment but salaries are mostly not matching the rate of inflation. How are young people tackling all of this? Voicing out and calling for accountability across industries. Instead of vague salary information, lots of people are calling for salary transparency, (a problem in the freelance industry too). 81% of Gen Z want companies to share pay information to create greater pay equality. It can be an overwhelming task to know at the start of your career what to even negotiate around, so there are people anonymously sharing their salaries in live docs to help benchmark and create more transparency. Another solution is getting organised through unionising and industrial action. In the summer, UK transport workers protested, demonstrating their huge importance on the infrastructure across the country, to create change for everyone.
"I often hear older people giving out about younger generations and their ‘lack of grit,’ or their inability to "work as hard as I did". This is contrary to my experience of working and collaborating with young people, who not only always inspire me with their work ethic but often work beyond their core job. They're doing so much with the time they have - active in their communities, active doing projects on the side, engaged and creative on their social media… the list goes on. And all that in circumstances that are far more challenging. Inflation, housing and climate. Quiet Quitting, if experienced by companies, might be a signal that they’re not in tune with, or focused on, their younger, and often more junior, staff." - Jane McDaid, Founder & Head of Creative Innovation, THINKHOUSE.
Create Workplaces That Care - While young people still have plenty of ambition, supporting young talent today requires more adaptability and flexibility. To secure better employee retention, employers can offer more flexible work models and clear opportunities for growth, being more transparent on benefits and salaries. Be prepared to adapt and offer up more individualised packages that suit the individual and are considered fair in the eyes of youth.
Invest in your Employer Brand - With young people more selective in terms of who they work for, consider what your true value exchange is with a young workforce. How is your business a force for good? What benefit are you bringing to society? What benefits do you offer employees? Be clear of who you are and what you offer.
Invest & Create Opportunities For The Future - Now in its second year, the Breakthrough Scholarship, offers a young person a career changing opportunity. The tri-party initiative from THINKHOUSE, Technological University, Dublin (TU Dublin), and Yugo (Global Student Accommodation Group (Yugo) consists of funding for a full-time Masters degree, comprehensive agency experience and student accommodation for the entire academic year, to the value of €28,000. What can you offer young workers to help level the playing field?
“The Breakthrough Scholarship has removed the financial and social barriers that often stifle young careers, empowering a remarkable student to break into the industry. Now, in its second year, we remain steadfast in our commitment to diversity. This further supports our strong history as home to a diverse student-population and as a beacon for inclusivity in education.” Dr. Etain Kidney, Head of the School of Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin)