Gen Z Told Us What Work Would Look Like If It Were Up To Them

By Christina Posa, Director of Insights
December 7, 2022

Gen Z is Entering the Workforce in Droves

Gen Z is not the future of the workforce; they are the workforce. Nearly half of Gen Z are currently employed full-time. An additional 1 in 5 have started their own business. 

To connect with the next generation of leaders – whether by supporting young entrepreneurs or recruiting Gen Z talent – we must understand how this generation is envisioning and redefining the future of work.

What if Work Were Designed by Gen Z?

To get a glimpse of what “work” means to Gen Z, we asked them to tell us what their ideal place of work looks like. 

We conducted a study with 1000 young people among VICE Media Group’s audience worldwide. Participants of the survey were asked to complete a set of questions based on the following preface:

Whether you have already started your own business, have just thought about it, or have never thought about it until now, we want you to imagine you are starting the ideal company or place of work. Please complete the following questions based on how you’d design a new business if it were (or is) completely up to you.

The results revealed that Gen Z’s ideal company or place of work would be designed around 4 key pillars: creativity, vision, connection, and balance. 

#1. Creativity: The Core of Gen Z Work Culture

It is not a groundbreaking insight to say that all companies must be, to some extent, creative. But creativity takes on new significance for Gen Z. This is a generation born not just to express themselves creatively, but to actually create the world around them. They have reinvented social norms and grown up with information at their fingertips as they build the “new normal” with every step they take post-pandemic and into adulthood. As a result, ‘creative’ is one of the Top 3 words Gen Z uses to describe people their age.

Gen Z will carry this creativity with them into the workplace, grounding their culture in creativity and invention. 

Rooting their company culture in creativity will mean hiring creative minds and valuing qualities in their employees such as “creativity” and “‘passion.”

Gen Z will also choose their vendors based on innovation over price, with a vendor’s vision and ability to innovate as the #1 element Gen Z considers when deciding which partners to choose as collaborators. 

#2: Vision: Gen Z Will Have a Clear Vision for What They’re Creating At Work

“You really need to know why you’re doing it, what motivates you. The answer can’t be money.” – Gen Z, Male, NA

In order to make their creative dreams a reality, Gen Z will need a guiding light for their business decisions. For next gen leaders, that guiding light will be the company’s mission. Compared to just 33% of Millennials, 43% of Gen Z say the company’s mission/purpose will be their guiding light when making day-to-day decisions for their businesses. 

And they’ll measure success by their business’s impact, not income. When asked what they want their business to be known for, Gen Z is 3x more likely to say “biggest impact on its community,” than “highest revenue/profit.” 

#3: Connection: For Gen Z, Good Company Makes Good Companies

Gen Z cares deeply about the people around them. As a generation that has pushed the envelope for inclusivity and continues to advocate for a more fair and just world, it is no surprise that Gen Z will center their businesses around human beings. Next to the mission, Gen Z says the “wellbeing of their employees” would be the most important factor when making day to day decisions. Their work culture will include work-life balance (48%), learning/growth (47%), doing work that matters (44%), and flexibility (41%) – all things that support the people within their walls.

Gen Z will hire leaders that demonstrate the human skills necessary to foster this type of company culture. Among Gen Z’s top 10 sought out qualities in leadership are “respect,” “empathy,” and “self-awareness,” compared to more traditional business skills in the bottom 10, such as “delegation,” “education in the field,” and “computer/tech proficiency.” 

#4: Balance: Gen Z’s Identity Will Define The Work

When it comes to identity, Gen Z believes that internal qualities (personality, hobbies/passions, and values/moral code) express who they are more than their external qualities (age, gender, or ethnicity) do. As ‘job/career’ falls within their external qualities, very few Gen Z will use their job title to bolster their identity. On the flip side, Gen Z uses their identity to create their job/career. We asked Gen Z entrepreneurs how big of a role their personality/identity plays in their business, and 1 in 3 say that it is the crux of their business. 

In order to keep work as an expression of themselves rather than their whole selves, Gen Z works hard to keep work separate from their personal life. This may be why Gen Z would ideally do just 22% of their work at home (a 6% and 10% decrease from Millennials and Gen X respectively). Instead, half of Gen Z’s work would take place around the world, in a shared work space, in a virtual work space, or in common spaces.

How Do Brands Support Next Gen Leaders?

As Gen Z continues to make up more of the workforce, there are many ways brands can support these next gen leaders in their endeavors: 

#1: Provide the tools, resources, and environment to unlock creative potential. 

Gen Z is looking for ways to cultivate creativity at work. Brands can support them by adding inspiring elements to their workspace, providing tools that foster artistic expression, or facilitating activities that unlock out of the box thinking.

#2: Serves as connective tissue to make their visions possible.

With the company’s mission as their guiding light, Gen Z will need a roadmap to keep their vision on track. Brands can help in providing methodologies for them to measure the impact of their business, and resources to help them organize internally around a shared mission.

#3: Shift the spotlight to the human aspects of the business.

Brands can provide opportunities for individuals to connect and form communities, both inside and outside of the organization’s walls. The wellbeing of employees will be top of mind, so any ways brands can play a role – whether through healthy snacks, learning modules, or time management tools – will be welcome. 

#4: Support them in their quest for both personal and professional success.

As Gen Z pours their personality into their work, new needs may arise to protect their personal identity. Brands can offer support via business counseling, insurance, patents, or mental health support. They can also support Gen Z with the tools needed to take work to new places: around the world, the metaverse, and shared workspaces. 

To access our latest report “Next-Gen Leaders” or for more information on VICE Insights contact us insights@vice.com 

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