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Mind the Gap

How Gen Z is disrupting the workplace in 2024

How to make work, work in 2024

Is this it? Will 2024 be the year we finally get our groove back with work? In some cases, the return-to-office memos have been sent while in others, hybrid has been cemented as the future way of working. Regardless, everyone is hoping we might all settle into a work year that holds a little less turbulence for organizations and employees everywhere.

However, we’re at another tipping point. For the first time ever, Gen Z is set to surpass boomers in the workforce. And it hasn’t been happening so quietly. Headlines have ranged from celebrities to psychologists or CEOs talking about a disengaged generation, coining terms like “quiet quitting” and “lazy girl jobs” that reflect a lack of connection and perceived effort. At the same time, the youngest generation (and fastest-growing workforce segment) are stuck with massive student loans, have had to launch careers from home, faced several “once in a lifetime” phenomena, and are making sense of a world in amongst conflict, inflation, and an economic rollercoaster.

In this piece of research, we wanted to better understand engagement, belonging, career drive and productivity across the entire workforce, and specifically Gen Z. Having surveyed 14 countries around the world, the results shed new light on the root causes of disengagement at work, why flexibility is the newest generation’s number one priority and how connection in the virtual and physical environments could go a lot further than you might think to keep everyone in the workforce productive.





Highlights in the report:

  • 1 79% say they currently work in a job where they have total autonomy to choose their work location
  • 2 Quality of internet connection, audio and video are the top 3 productivity pain points in online meetings
  • 3 29% of Gen Z say they feel connected to their peers and managers through chat messages – rating it higher than casual catch ups in person or on video
  • 4 Gen Z reports being as satisfied in their jobs as older generations, but 52% feel stressed and 48% expect to change jobs within the next year
  • 5 To Gen Z employees, honesty and integrity in a manager is 5 times more important than their expertise in a given field

Key Findings

01

Employees want autonomy and employers appear to be giving it

Every week, headlines are made as different leaders of global organizations issue mandates that appear to disregard any employee preferences and call for a full-time return to the office. While our data showed a significantly increasing number of people going back into the office, we also captured whether this was autonomous or mandated, and were surprised by the results. Close to 8 in 10 employees said they’re currently in jobs giving them the autonomy to choose their workplace each day and 7 in 10 are happy with the flexibility they currently have.





02

Colleagues don’t ruin productivity in online meetings, technology does

In 2023, a piece of Microsoft research investigated the increase in time spent communicating across all apps, and the impact it was having on employees to focus and work. Interestingly, the leading barrier to productivity according to that research was having inefficient meetings. With this in mind, we wanted to find out what the root causes of inefficient meetings are.

As meeting equity has shifted in hybrid work, we know that people have been challenged in online meeting environments and making sure everyone can equally participate is vital. At the same time, poor meeting agendas, not being able to read the room and issues like people speaking over each other could be easily remedied with the right guidance and training.

Surprisingly, the simplest and most easily solved issues are still the biggest. Quality of internet connection (48%), quality of audio (32%) and quality of video (28%) were rated significantly higher, as the leading barriers to productivity in meetings.

Despite the increasing number of people returning to the office at least once a week for work, most meetings still take place online. Here, the basic “meeting hygiene” factors still appear to be the ones most needing our attention. We know that less than 1 in 3 knowledge workers are using headsets with a boom-arm and only 19% are using a webcam. With this in mind, organizations can tackle some of the biggest pain points of modern-day meetings with professional technology, giving every employee the right audio and video solutions to meet.1



1Jabra Global Knowledge Worker Study 2023 & Jabra Certification Study 2023

03

Gen Z has walked into your workplace with one foot out the door

Over the past decade, mental wellbeing awareness has increased in the workplace, with organizations and leaders doing more to address mental health and employee wellbeing. However, it can be difficult to address a problem if you don’t know it exists. While more than 7 in 10 Gen Z employees report being generally satisfied in their current jobs, 52% report feeling stressed and burned out. At the same time, almost half of all Gen Z’s we surveyed are expecting to change jobs within the next year.

Burnout and mental health should be a major area of focus for any organization wanting to protect its most valuable resource, its people. However, it’s difficult to solve if you’re not sure where it exists. As much as Gen Z also report that changing jobs is a career development driver, companies need to consider retention and wellbeing strategies across their workforce. Top-down, hierarchical leadership, with rules around when and where people work will easily lead to further disengagement. In a world where job possibilities are endless, Gen Z is ready to leave if their needs aren’t met.





Key data points:

  • 48% of Gen Z expects to change jobs within the next year

  • 74% of Gen Z believes in changing jobs as a career development driver

  • 42% of Gen Z say that having their own business is the most desirable career path

04

Gen Z wants to work-life balance their way to the top

What does it take to get to the top? In a world of social media, influencers and access to information, the factors that affect our perceptions of career importance, and what it takes to get to the top, are broader than ever. As pay transparency grows, hierarchies flatten and work-life balance is reframed, people’s career aspirations might shift. Regardless of what type of career individuals might want, 82% still say that career achievements are important to their personal sense of identity and success.

But while the youngest generation is no less career focused than those before them, they do want to do so with greater work-life balance. Gen Z is often considered a work-life balance focused generation, but our data shows that 43% say that work and career still play a bigger role than their personal life. However, when asked about what measures constitute success in their careers, almost 1 in 3 say work-life balance is an important measure. Gen Z is not looking to compromise one for the other and has a different expectation, where being ambitious with their career while maintaining a strong work-life balance is a core goal.

This could be based on the number of entrepreneurs and creators in today’s world, or other factors like the rise in the gig economy or side hustle. It comes down to control, and a generation who are far more focused on taking control of their lives and careers on their own terms, with far more options and less dependence. Organizations should be mindful of the ways in which they enable and engage Gen Z, with an awareness of the factors that matter most to them.



05

Empathy is the most-wanted modern-day manager skill

Leading a team is challenging in today’s world of work is more challenging than ever before. Our roles and team needs are evolving at a faster pace than ever, AI is integrating into our workflows, and a generationally diverse workforce call for different needs from their managers. So, what matters most to employees today when looking at the qualities they most want in their manager?

Gen Z would rather have an empathetic manager than an experienced one and consider honesty and integrity five times more important than experience in a field of work. Less than 1 in 10 Gen Z employees consider experience and knowledge an important quality and even less find experience within the company important.

With a hybrid workforce, day-to-day connection as well as long-term belonging is driven by people. People are going into the office to connect with other people, and find that having more personal conversations or forming friendships in the workplace is what make them feel more connected to their work and the organization.

As such, managers need to re-engage with their teams. One meaningful conversation a week with someone’s manager can make all the difference between their sense of connection and belonging, or disengagement with work. It’s more important now than ever that leaders make time for honest, empathetic, and transparent conversations. Employees in our survey said that even chat messages or online catch ups can help nurture this sense of belonging. Leaders should make use of all the communication channels available to them in hybrid work, as well as with facetime in office, and remember that not every conversation needs to be work focused or operational. Often, the ones that aren’t are those that foster employee belonging the most.

Connecting the Gap going forward

The oldest segment of Gen Z has only just stepped into the workforce, so we are still yet to see the full effects of this generation as our expectations around work evolve. But their entry marks a paradigm shift for organizations and managers. Where employees used to settle with the boundaries and hierarchies of the workplace, hybrid work and Gen Z have accelerated a shift in our understanding of what work and the workplace is. Today’s world is a creator economy, and if organizations can’t create a place that is desirable to work at, Gen Z will simply pursue alternative avenues.

There’s never been such generational differences before when it comes to what work is and what it means to us. And in order to retain employees in the future, leaders need to step up to understand the shift in mindsets, attitudes and behaviors in order to equip their workplaces in the best possible way for this future workforce.

Methodology:

This survey was conducted online in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, India, and China. The survey was conducted by Toluna on behalf of Jabra from November 15 – November 25 among 4,473 knowledge workers. This online sample is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. The survey includes respondents from the following generations: Gen Z (ages 18-26), Millennials (27-42), Gen X (43-58) and Baby Boomers (59-77).

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