Have Gen Z got it right about work life balance?

Are Gen Z’s attitudes to work shaped by growing up with the frazzled Gen X-ers?

Tired woman pouring coffee


It’s half term. At least it is for some parents, although not for others. Half term in our house is not happening until next week. The good thing about having half terms at different times is that it tends to be a little quieter at work over two weeks instead of one. Colleagues are away. Out of office messages ping back. What’s not to like? It’s like when people cancel meetings at the last minute, giving you a whole extra hour in your day. They are usually very apologetic, but anything that frees up time around this period of the year is a good thing in my book. Just to be able to think for a few minutes.

Nowadays things are pretty full on most of the year so it can be hard to take any time off. I know parents are often the worst at taking time off, far from the typical stereotype. Often we are stockpiling leave for emergency situations and fail to take our full quota. I know I have done that, particularly in what I will call the norovirus and nits years, and year on year it mounts up.

I wonder sometimes what impact this is having on our children. I know there has been much discussion of Generation Z and below in the workplace. The general drift of the conversations is that Gen Z are more anxious and more into work life balance than their predecessors. Employers who talk to me about age bias that younger people just don’t go the extra mile. They work their hours and go do something else. I certainly see that in my own children. For instance, when I suggest journalism as a profession they all look at me in horror because they associate it with ‘working too hard’. What I have failed to convey is that I enjoy it a lot, that it is amazingly variable and interesting and that I sometimes want to put in the extra hours.

My mum, however, also listens to be droning on about what I’ve had to do in a week and she says she is exhausted by the end of it. She didn’t work that intensely back in the day. There were more people to do all the different tasks and not so many tasks in general. Nowadays tasks are always being added to every job and nothing is taken away. People are losing their jobs and those left behind are having to cover for them. Most people I speak to are just about keeping their heads above water.

So maybe it’s just Generation X that is facing a work life balance meltdown. Poll after poll shows we are desperate for more of it, often due to all the other family responsibilities we are taking on in addition to full-time [all the time] jobs. Maybe Generation Z has taken a good hard look at us and thought ‘that doesn’t look much fun’.

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