James Henderson

‘Stressed’ Kiwi Gen Zs will quit if asked to return to the office full-time

Generation Z (Gen Z) employees will consider quitting if asked to return to the office on a full-time basis in New Zealand, with the majority feeling stressed and burned out due to workload intensity.

As organisations emerge battered and bruised from the aftermath of COVID-19 – and collide at pace with incoming economic turmoil – the mindset of the youngest generation in the workforce appears aligned with widespread market challenges.

This is a generation – born between approximately 1997 and 2012 – still recovering from the pandemic and deeply concerned about the financial impact of the coming months in New Zealand.

According to Deloitte, 78% of Kiwi Gen Zs would consider looking for a new job if asked to return to the office on a full-time basis, with almost half (47%) of the opinion that worsening economic conditions should not impact employee demands for flexibility.

Yet such sentiment threatens to put Gen Zs on a collision course with company CEOs seeking to reintroduce more structured and permanent return to office mandates over the coming months.

“Gen Zs are striving for better work / life balance,” noted Michele Parmelee, Chief People and Purpose Officer at Deloitte.

“They are also values-driven, concerned about the environment, the state of the world, and the future they see developing ahead of them. They’re looking for employers who can help empower them to make a difference.”

Michele Parmelee (Deloitte)

As outlined in the Kiwi edition of Deloitte’s Gen Z and Millennial Survey, the primary reason for continued flexibility is because the majority of Gen Zs (51%) feel anxious or stressed “all or most of the time” while suffering from burn out (52%) due to the intense nature of work.

In addition to workplace pressures, other contributors impacting the mental state of Gen Zs in New Zealand include concerns over long-term finances (44%), family / personal relationships (40%), day-to-day finances (39%), mental health (39%) and family health / welfare (37%).

“Gen Zs are facing a unique combination of challenges during a pivotal point in their lives as they progress in their careers, grow their families, and care for loved ones,” Parmelee said.

According to findings – which surveyed 301 Gen Zs in New Zealand – 69% of Gen Zs respond to work emails and messages outside of business hours anywhere between every day and 3-4 days per week.

The four main reasons for this are:

  • Staying updated on latest developments (29%)
  • Email is coming from a superior / supervisor (27%)
  • Work anxiety / failure to disconnect (26%)
  • Struggling to manage workload during normal business hours (24%)

To combat a perceived lack of work / life balance, 36% of Gen Zs want organisations to consider a condensed four-day work week in New Zealand, supported by a culture in which taking vacation time is both “encouraged and expected” (33%).

“Organisations that actively listen and help address their needs and concerns will improve business resiliency and implement actionable change in our world,” added Parmelee, who is also Global Deputy CEO at Deloitte.

Financial worries continue

More broadly, the top issue of greatest concern for Gen Zs in New Zealand is the cost of living crisis (42%), ahead of mental health (30%), climate change (23%), inequality / discrimination (22%) and income inequality /distribution of wealth (20%).

This is reflected by 49% currently living pay-check to pay-check, hampered by the ongoing anxiety of not being able to cover monthly expenses.

As a result – and given the current economic outlook – 60% believe it will become “harder or impossible” to ask for a raise (60%) during the next 12 months, in addition to finding a new job (52%) or asking for a promotion (56%). Outside of work, starting a family (50%) and buying a house (75%) are also expected to become more difficult in the months ahead.

In response, 42% of Gen Zs have a side job in New Zealand, considered either a part- or full-time paying job in addition to their primary occupation. Most popular include professional gaming / eSports (23%), working in a restaurant or retail store (21%), selling products or services through online platforms (20%), social media influencer / content creation (19%) and writing / hosting a blog, podcast, or newsletter (19%).

“It is crucial for employers to understand these generations and continue to drive progress on the challenges that matter most to them,” Parmelee added. “This will not only help boost productivity and retain talent – it will ultimately build trust and value for business in society more broadly.”

Given current market conditions, the majority of Gen Zs (57%) in New Zealand believe their employer takes the issue of mental health seriously, with such an increased focus resulting in “positive changes” in the workplace (56%).

This is evident by more than two thirds (68%) feeling comfortable speaking openly with their direct manager about stress, anxiety or other mental health challenges. However almost a quarter (24%) of Gen Zs have taken time off work due to stress or anxiety but gave their employer a different reason.

Within that context, 81% of Gen Zs consider mental health support and policies as crucial when considering a potential employer.

According to Deloitte, 59% of Gen Zs have experienced harassment or micro-aggressions during the past 12 months.

Top harassment behaviours experienced include:

  • Offensive or suggestive emails or other communications (19%)
  • Approaches or physical advances by colleagues (15%)
  • Repeated disparaging / belittling comments about gender (15%)

Top micro-aggressions experienced include

  • Excluded from informal interactions or conversations (14%)
  • Patronised / undermined by leaders based on gender (11%)
  • Unwanted jokes at their expense (10%)


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