Reports state that Gen Z are expected to account for 58% of the global workforce by 20301. Because of this, employers are being encouraged to engage with the working styles and preferences of younger employees to help maximise their talent pools and retention. 

With some companies unsure where to start, Furniture at Work teamed up with People & Talent Advisor Matt Berry-Hewitt at Search Laboratory to investigate some of the most common office ‘icks’ – a feeling of disgust or dislike towards something – that Gen Z employees experience in the workplace and more importantly, how employers can help to combat them.

  • Being asked to feature in company TikToks

Despite being the ‘TikTok generation’, many Gen Z employees describe being irritated by colleagues who ask them to take part in company social media content.

If you ask a staff member to join in with a TikTok, and they say no, you should respect that no and move on.

With 9 out of 10 Gen Z workers reporting feeling social discomfort in the workplace at one time or another2, it’s beneficial for employers to seek out volunteers for social media filming and avoid the more camera-shy employees.

  • Commenting on colleagues’ food choices

Following a generational shift, judgmental comments about food simply won’t be tolerated by Gen Z. A quarter of this age group eats a meat-free diet3, with another 26% intending to lead a more plant-based diet in the future, which is significantly higher than any other age group. Accepting others’ dietary choices is non-negotiable for younger employees, so workers should avoid passing comments on colleagues’ food in the workplace.

  • Cameras on in meetings

With 35% of Gen Z women favouring loungewear over any other clothing4, it’s no surprise that another recurring ick is being asked to turn their cameras on when taking part in a Zoom or Teams call. Although 80% of workers of all ages prefer their virtual meeting partners to keep their cameras on5, it has been reported that there is extra added pressure on younger workers to turn their cameras on to appear more trustworthy!

  • Being expected to work overtime

A common complaint by Gen Z employees is being labelled a ‘part-timer’ for arriving and leaving the office exactly on time. According to a recent study, 77% of Gen Z prioritise having a healthy work-life balance in their careers6, with a particular focus on working smarter, not harder. Matt explains: “If somebody says ‘no’ to being expected to work overtime with no extra pay, that’s a bad workplace culture for expecting it of staff – not a bad employee for turning it down.”

More senior colleagues can avoid falling foul of this ick by focusing on productivity and tasks completed instead of hours logged.

  • Coming into the office with an illness

Research shows that workers are more proactive about their physical health following the COVID-19 pandemic7. It has also been reported that Gen Z and millennials are the most likely to call in sick to work after showing symptoms of a minor illness such as a cold, while older generations are shown to be less mindful of spreading germs around the office – another reason to keep the hand sanitiser close by!

Matt commented:

As [Gen Z] become the dominant force in the workplace, businesses are going to have to learn to adapt to these new expectations or miss out on some great talent. However, it’s important to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day – companies aren’t going to magically change and adapt overnight. Younger employees may also benefit from a bit of patience and setting more realistic expectations.

Matt Berry-Hewitt, People & Talent Advisor

Joanne Swann, Content Manager, WorkWellPro
Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.