Constant stress and zero tolerance of toxic workplaces: what Gen Z and millennials really think about work

Survey of 5,000 professionals also reveals younger workers' thoughts on wellbeing support and business attitudes to periods and menopause

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Eight in 10 (80 per cent) Gen Z and millennials would quit their jobs tomorrow because of a toxic work culture, a new study has found. 

The study by Lifesum, which polled 5,000 UK Gen Z and millennials to explore how they make career decisions based on personal values, also found that half (51 per cent) are stressed at work most of the time. 

It also discovered that half (48 per cent) of those polled feel work-related stress had an impact on their personal life. 

Rachel Suff, senior employee wellbeing adviser at the CIPD, said a “respectful and inclusive culture” was critical for all generations in the workplace. “It will underpin levels of employee commitment, loyalty and engagement and is therefore also central to organisational performance,” said Suff. “Conversely, a toxic culture will hamper an employer’s ability to retain valuable skills and talent and fulfil its corporate objectives. 

She added that the “impact of poor management and behaviour can have serious consequences” for people’s health and wellbeing, and could even prompt disputes and employment tribunal claims, risking the employer’s reputation and ability to attract new recruits. 

Suff also said that everyone has the right to be treated with “fairness”, “dignity” and “respect” at work, and that businesses have a duty of care towards their employees. She added that expectations about what the workforce wants from work are rising and “organisations need to respond to these shifting attitudes to remain competitive”.

Similarly, Liz Sebag-Montefiore director and co-founder of 10Eighty, told People Management that an inclusive workplace was important to these workers and they prioritised wellbeing alongside job development and flexibility in their work. 

She added: “Gen Z and millennials are energetic and motivated so it’s worth the effort to ensure you are providing them with a collaborative culture. These youngsters take quite a broad-based view of EDI so make sure that hiring managers are careful to recognise any unconscious bias in recruitment efforts.

“If you don’t meet the demands of the younger workforce, they are likely to look for a new role.”

Sebag-Montefiore also said communication was key for firms to develop open communication to prevent or address workplace toxicity: “All employees want to know that what they’re doing is bringing value to the organisation. So, talk to employees and get their feedback on what is meaningful to them and set up a feedback loop to reinforce company values.” 

Workplace health and wellbeing crucial

According to the report, nearly half of Gen Z and millennials (47 per cent) would quit their job tomorrow for one that better supported their wellbeing, and nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) said they would be more productive at work if their employer improved their health and wellbeing. 

However, the report stated that companies must work harder, as nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of Gen Z and millennials believed their employer lacked a wellbeing culture. 

Michelle Hartley, founder and director of People Sorted, told People Management that organisations needed to put employee wellbeing at the forefront of their people strategies to ensure their employees were able to give their best “irrespective of their generation”. 

“Enabling people to work in a way that suits their lives increases engagement and in turn productivity,” she said. 

Hartley explained that wellbeing does not just belong with the HR function as some kind of “dustbin of people issues that are too hard to address”, but should be led from the top at a senior leadership and culture level. 

“Asking employees what benefits, perks and working arrangements suit them is a great place to start, rather than opting for prescriptive or performative approaches,” she said, adding that offering a wellbeing budget per head for employees to spend as they saw fit was a great way to create a “bespoke wellbeing culture”. 

Hormonal health and remote working 

According to the research, 40 per cent of female Gen Z and millennials would quit tomorrow for a job that better accommodated their female cycle. This follows recent People Management reporting on a Fawcett Society and Channel 4 survey that indicated one in every 10 women had quit work because of menopausal symptoms. 

In addition, a study found that more than one million women experiencing menopausal symptoms are under pressure to leave their job because they are not receiving the necessary support. 

The Lifesum research also discovered that more than half (54 per cent) of Gen Z and millennials would quit if hybrid work was not an option.