Business unusual as Gen Z revolutionalises the workplace

Tuesday, February 27th, 2024 01:15 | By
Gen Z
Gen Z. PHOTO/Pexels

Generation Z has now outpaced Baby Boomers in the job market and is significantly influencing the future of work.  According to reports by UK’s Snap and Oxford Economics, Gen Z will soon become a major force in the global workforce whose numbers will triple to 87 million by 2030.

As of such, futuristic companies are shifting their work policies to make them comfortable and to ensure productivity at work.

Unlike their predecessors, Gen Z prioritise comfort and self-expression and lean towards dressing up casually. Traditionally, a suit-and-tie or formal attire was the standard uniform, symbolising professionalism and authority. However, Gen Z has challenged the rigid standards of traditional dress codes.

“We don’t have a dress code. Workers are encouraged to adopt a comfortable dress code as long as it is appropriate,” says Samuel Karani Intrepids Travel East Africa GM.

If you’ve been shopping online for blazers, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of them are now cropped. As Gen Z enters the workforce, they are showing up wearing casual, even (to some) inappropriate work clothing.

While wearing dreadlocks and having tattoos was once associated with rebellious people of questionable character such as the illegal Mungiki sect members, today this fashion style has become even trendy.

Flexible options

 “Gen Z fashion is not a way of disrespecting anyone. You might think they are disrespecting you by coming to work in bright colours and crop tops instead of wearing a suit. Or wearing sneakers instead of office footwear. But they’re actually dressing that way because that’s how they want to be perceived. The primary hallmark of Gen Z fashion is self-expression. It’s about being yourself and being one of a kind. It’s also about sustainability. But it’s playful,” says Mary Akinyi, a digital marketing strategist

Another structure that’s changing is that more companies and organisations are seeking to have flexible work options as they are integral components and indicators of a holistic work environment, which advances a healthy work life as well as mental well-being that the Gen Z seek.

“We are no longer required to have a fixed 8am to 5pm schedule. We have had to revise our human resource policies to provide more flexible work structures, while remaining focused on our mission, which is ‘keeping wildlife in the wild.’ One such initiatives is the hybrid model of work. We adopted a flextime structure where employees are given the much-needed flexibility. We do this by allowing employees to alter their time to earlier or later in the day based on commuting hours, school pick-up schedules, or doctor’s appointments. Employees can simply change their day’s schedule to accommodate an early-morning dentist visit rather than taking paid time off. The staff at the organisation’s headquarters have an option to apply to work from home two weeks advance notice,” says Nekesa Wakhungu the Head of Finance and Administration at Born Free Foundation, an international wildlife charity.

At Intrepids Travel East Africa GM, Karani says the organisation has had to adopt the hybrid working style, a flexible approach that combines working in an office environment and working remotely.

“Technology has come to the aid of this style and teams are still able to collaborate with peers, while working remotely, and still have time for in-person meetings during office hours. At Intrepid, our teams are mostly travelling, and a hybrid style enables them to fulfil their passion for travel while still meeting their official obligations. It also enables a global company like ours to still tap into talent in remote places or in different locations,” he notes.

To ensure productivity, managers had to come up with a formula of managing teams remotely, while ensuring that flexible working styles and schedules do not affect business priorities.

“Setting targets and agreeing on deliverables ensures the teams remain focused on the results, and this helps to keep productivity on course. The focus is always on efficiency and collaboration by providing working tools, training the staff, and supporting them through regular catch-ups and mentoring is important,” adds Karani.

Towards a healthier workforce

Another distinction with this generation is the strong emphasis on mental health and well-being. Having witnessed burnout and stress in the older generation, they prioritise their mental well-being right from the beginning of their careers.

“Gen Z employees seek work environments that offer support, flexibility, and resources when it comes to managing mental health. Companies that proactively address mental health concerns create a workplace culture that promotes well-being, attracts top Gen Z talent, and fosters a healthier and more engaged workforce overall. As an organisation, we have placed high priority to well-being, which I can simply describe as the condition of being at ease, healthy and/or happy. We have achieved this through revamping of our human resource processes such as robust talent acquisition process, intensive on boarding process, a practical learning and development process, good perks, benefits and rewards to all staff as well as safe and pleasant environment, which we constantly improve based on feedback from our annual employee workplace survey,” explains Nekesa.

Being that Gen Z appreciates a work and family life balance, Intrepid has a diverse workforce and action towards equality, which  means that women and mothers are taking more managerial roles within the business.

“We have an extended maternity leave policy that not only guarantees the mothers sufficient times with their newborns, but also a flexible working style post-maternity to ensure the family unit thrives. We also have an extended paternity to encourage new parents to spend time with their newborn, including adopted children,” explains Karani.

Having grown up in a world of rapid technological advancement, Gen Z is the most tech-savvy generation so far, and that means that are highly proficient with modern tools and resources and can adapt and embrace new technologies.

“New technology and Gen Z go hand in hand. Bear in mind that this is first generation to enter the work force with no memory of a  time before social media and Wi-Fi. This also means that organisations hoping to attract Gen z will need to be technologically savvy,” says Nekesa.

 “This knowledge has made us become more efficient and productive in the workplace. They exhibit an advanced understanding of the internet, which allows them to use different online platforms to quickly access relevant information and communicate effectively with their peers,” says Karani.

New leadership style

Nekesa has noticed improved productivity through embracing technology, standardising work processes and streamlining communication between employees and programmes. A change in leadership style, which encourage open communication and feedback makes Gen Z productive. This means that supervisors or managers are open to employees’ questions, complaints, suggestions and challenges.

“To manage a Generation Z workforce means committing to a new leadership style. When asked what they value most in a leader, Gen Z prioritise empathy and honesty. This generation wants their boss to be transparent, supportive, and respectful of what

Karani has noticed an increase in the use of technology, and reduction of travel times with a direct positive impact on carbon footprint across the business, on the flipside, employees’ well-being can be a challenge.

“When people are working away from others, they miss being able to share their challenges with their team mates. However, ensuring we have regular catch ups can help combat this,” he says.

Nekesa encourages employers working with Gen Z to prioritize collaboration and communication. “Allow the Gen Z independence and autonomy by embracing strategies that allow for flexibility and work life balance. The Gen Z employees want to know that their employer is committed to keeping them happy and healthy, so have strong policies that ensures that their mental health is taken care of. Such strategies can include certain perks such as access to counselling, strong policies on leave, HR systems that monitor burnout as well as attractive salaries,” she says in ending.

More on Features