Gen Z Workers Value Mental Health — Here's How You Can Support Them
More and more members of Generation Z are now getting ready to jump-start their careers. Facing this major turning point in life requires mental and emotional preparedness. Mental health is among the interests of Gen Z, so it is easy to see why they may have significant concerns about joining the workforce.
Therefore, employers need to soundly understand this generation and their mental health needs at work. How do Gen Zers compare with Millennials? What are their aspirations? Their motivations? Their strengths and weaknesses? What are their primary concerns about job hunting and employment? Seeking answers to these questions will allow employers to keep a balanced workplace dynamic and help Gen Zers become happy and productive company members.
Who are Gen Z?
Before diving in, let us do a quick review of some critical information about Gen Zers. One must remember that the attributes seen in a generation will not apply to each individual, as we cannot overgeneralise complex beings. Still, some challenges and realities noticeably shape the behaviour and perspectives of younger generations like Gen Z.
Gen Z characteristics
Most profilers refer to Gen Z as those born from 1997 to 2012.
Millennials, the generation prior, grew up with both offline and online experiences. They were "digital pioneers" — the first to witness the exponential developments in the Internet, mobile devices, and other modern digital technologies.
Gen Zers, however, were born with all these. Most of the members of this generation did not experience a time before the Internet and social media. Thus, the younger ones might have had smartphones as their first mobile phones. Most grew up watching television shows and movies through streaming services instead of broadcast programming. As such, Gen Zers are often called "digital natives" who know and rely on the latest and greatest devices and technology.
Another remarkable trait seen in Gen Z is their focus on financial health. The majority of them witnessed their parents and loved ones struggle financially during the Great Recession. As such, they are determined to have a solid foundation for financial stability.
Other characteristics that define Gen Z members are their enthusiasm for learning, competitive spirit, adaptability, desire for independence, and dedication to diversity.
Gen Z work values Gen Zers are generally profiled as skilled multi-taskers at work, primarily because of their hyper-connectivity to their mobile devices. Being multi-taskers can be both an advantage and disadvantage, as their employers may prefer them to focus on a single task consistently. Since Gen Z is also the most tech-savvy generation, they are valuable to companies looking to shift or expand their operations online.
The way this generation works may also surprise their older peers. Some are known to set their own hours, work less once they finish their daily tasks, and do not mind delegating tasks to their Millennial superiors. They also do not hesitate to ask for mental health breaks or wellness days off. But we can tie this to the fact that work-life balance and personal wellbeing are of primary importance to Gen Z.
Their competitiveness and independence also drive them to prefer individual jobs over group work. Still, Gen Zers embrace inclusivity and diversity in the workplace. Because of this, they can easily interact with co-workers of different backgrounds, races, and genders.
Malaysia's Gen Z and Mental Health
According to Dr. Raagidhasakti Ravi, a clinical psychologist who has counselled several young professionals during the pandemic, Gen Z Malaysians are more aware of mental health and more willing to seek help than previous generations.
"The rate of awareness is increased because the media is doing a good job in Malaysia," she told JobStreet. "However, people are still not believing in those things primarily because of the cost (…) The awareness is there. It's just that people's mindset needs to change, and they should have the attitude to come forward."
As with their global counterparts, Malaysia's Gen Z are going through significant challenges this early in their adult life. Unemployment, rejected job applications, and retrenchment are all compounded by the uncertainties caused by the pandemic. To cope with these, Dr. Ravi advises Gen Z to practise being adaptable to change. In other words, they can benefit from having a growth mindset, which will allow them to be open to alternative career paths and income sources.
What Companies Can Do to Support Their Gen Z Staff's Mental Health
Studies across the globe have found that work and money are the most significant Gen Z stressors. Because of the long-lasting impacts of the pandemic, the classes of 2020 and 2021 had to navigate unemployment and crippled economies. Put these in the context of the Gen Zers' financial stability goals, and it is easy to see why they (alongside Millennials) are experiencing the most mental health challenges today.
Fortunately, more companies now understand the importance of mental health at work. Below are some practical solutions you can implement to support your employees' mental health, Gen Z or otherwise.
1. Provide resources for stress management.
Gen Z is just learning the ropes of the workplace. Many of them also entered the workforce during the pandemic, so they might have unusual views about work. As digital natives, they may also often spend most of their time glued on their screens instead of building face-to-face work relationships. They might feel isolated and disconnected, which can also extend to their work environment.
Employers should provide various resources for stress management to help everyone cope with anxiety from the current situation. It could come in the form of one-on-one meetings with direct supervisors, activities like meditation or yoga, or online support groups. Provide training sessions or access to online learning resources to help them become better equipped with skills they need for work. Encourage upper management to reach out to their teams for regular check-ins to foster teamwork and camaraderie despite remote work.
2. Promote and uphold work-life balance.
Employers should provide employees with tips on maintaining a work-life balance. There has never been a more critical time for companies to implement programs that aid employees' wellbeing. Many Gen Zers have experienced working from home due to the pandemic, so they may find it challenging to set boundaries between work and play.
Set policies that place value on their mental wellness and prevent burnout. For example, avoid assigning extra tasks outside working hours. As much as possible, let them enjoy the weekends off. Remind them that they can say "no" when they have too much on their plate. These will encourage them to set boundaries, manage their workload, and freely enjoy their personal time.
3. Make constant mental health support easily accessible.
As mentioned by Dr. Ravi, many Gen Zers remain hesitant to see a therapist despite their mental and emotional distress. Apart from the cost, they are also worried about the stigma tied to therapy. But, employers can do their part in shifting those beliefs.
Encouraging open discussions about mental health in the workplace is a good start. Offering more concrete support will reinforce it. Maybe you can develop an employee assistance program to help make therapy more accessible to your Gen Z staff. You can also have therapists come over once or twice a month to help employees navigate their mental health issues. Providing them with resources and inspiring them to ask for help will encourage them to pursue their mental and emotional needs.
4. Provide financial incentives and clear career growth opportunities.
Since work and money are the most significant sources of stress for Gen Z, you can take some of that burden away. Offering proper compensation will help reduce their stress and put them in a better state of mind, making them more focused at work. Financial incentives and clear growth opportunities will also make them feel more secure at work and motivate them to meet goals or exceed expectations.
5. Tap into their insights for making the workplace better for everyone.
Lastly, make ongoing efforts to build a positive work experience for all employees. Gen Zers are known to be vocal about workplace issues such as chronic job stresses, extended working hours, and discrimination. What better way to gain insights into improving working conditions than asking the employees themselves?
Do a regular employee pulse check to find significant issues or policies that affect employee happiness, productivity, and performance. Pay extra attention to what your Gen Z staff have to say. Trust that they will be open about speaking their mind and contributing to a healthy workplace culture!
Gen Zers are certainly among the most valuable assets your company can have in today's digitally-driven workplace. As such, it pays to address their professional and mental health needs. With these five solutions, you will lessen work-related anxieties and cultivate a positive employee experience. This way, they will be able to perform their best at work!
Use the Talent Search on JobStreet to find suitable jobseekers for your company. Visit the Employers Insights page to stay updated on hiring and talent acquisition trends today. Don't forget to explore the Laws of Attraction to better understand Malaysian talent from different generations, industries, job levels, and specialisations.