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19 Sep 2023
by Kahlicia Hurley

5 tips for supporting the mental resilience of Generation Z

Generation Z, the first digital generation, have had a difficult few years thanks to Covid-19 and the widespread move to hybrid working

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Generation Z, born between 1996 and 2010, is the first generation to be schooled, graduate and start their careers during a global pandemic. Called the first ‘digital generation’, Gen Z can be described as tech-savvy, pragmatic, open-minded, individualistic but socially responsible.

Masters of curating online social media presence, advocates of social and political justice, and known for achieving instant results when it comes to social communication, entrepreneurship, and creating multiple streams of income, you might think life is easier for this digital generation. 

A youth mental health crisis 

Gen Z has experienced adolescence amid unprecedented global events: a worldwide pandemic and health crisis (Covid-19), war, educational interruptions due to lockdown and the cost-of-living crisis. 

Living through such events during their years of development has resulted in Gen Z experiencing an unprecedented health crisis. American Gen-Zers have the highest prevalence of mental illness of any generation, and 42% of those born between 1990 and 2010 have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.  

Gen Z also have enhanced levels of unfulfilled social needs compared with any other generation, which includes access to a stable income, employment and social safety and security. A total of 58% of Gen Z reported two or more unmet social needs, compared with 16% of people of older generations.  

Feelings of isolation  

The Gen Z group entering the workforce at a time when working from home became the norm have expressed experiencing feelings of isolation and not feeling ‘part of the team’ as they missed out on meeting colleagues in person and making strong connections to become fully integrated. 

Gaps in work skills 

Not being in the office can mean missing out on learning soft skills which generations before had the opportunity to learn naturally or by osmosis and are essential to career success. For example, introducing yourself, networking, pitching ideas, or collaborative working bring with them abilities that are not easy to cultivate from home.

It is also a challenge to develop technical skills without being hands on and having an expert or manager present to deliver training or lead by example. 

Difficulties with work-life balance  

From having reflection time on the morning commute, sharing jokes with colleagues in the kitchen, and heading out for team lunches, the old life of office working consisted of many different social interactions that are less available when working from home.

It is also difficult for junior employees who do not necessarily have the experience to work independently and can feel more strained by working alone. Companies must develop strategies to ensure that those starting out in their careers can have a healthy work-life balance, so they do not face being overwhelmed or burning out at the start of their career.  

How employers can support this generation 

1. Structured support – training, workshops, or one to one sessions which aim to strengthen the mental health resilience capabilities of early career employees. Topics can include: 

  •  overcoming challenges at work 
  •  developing resilience  
  •  protecting your wellbeing at work 
  •  strengthening your health  

2. Personalised support – this can be incorporated to meet the individual needs of junior employees, for example through coaching sessions, mentoring and buddy systems. This can allow junior staff members to get help on questions which arise and have a listening ear as well as a soundboard to discuss challenges. Having someone in their corner is essential for young people’s success as they receive the support and encouragement needed to thrive. 

3. Training and employee support – consider mental health training for HR staff and developing links with organisations that can provide support to employees. This would help HR teams deal with staff experiencing mental health difficulties. Employees should be made aware they can approach their line manager or HR for help. 

4. Tailored induction programmes – developing induction and training programmes focusing on challenges faced by Gen Z can mitigate some of these issues. For instance, in-office training during an induction week even for remote workers may help promote connections between employees and ensure new starters meet and can become comfortable with the people they are working with. An induction programme or continuous training programmes can also involve shadowing, and technical or soft skill training to prevent feelings of isolation and to prevent a skills gap.

5. Company groups – employers could create groups that advocate for mental health to help ensure that there is a dedicated team committed to embedding good mental health practices into company culture. It is also a good opportunity for young employees to bond, make friends and engage with those who share similar experiences or challenges and can discuss shared solutions. Focus groups can allow directors and senior managers to better understand the mental health needs of employees and how they can better support them. 

Examples of benefits which support employee mental health for Gen-Z might include:

  • Benefits which adapt to your workforce – and do not discriminate on age, gender or seniority.
  • Remote and flexible work schedules.
  • Counselling, therapeutic or enhanced employee assistance programmes.
  • Bespoke and flexible benefits that support employee health (including mental health), wellness and work-life balance – especially those which aim to minimise stress.
  • Consider providing benefits stipends to allow employees to choose their own package.

For an organisation to prosper, it must ensure investment in its most junior workers. Gen Z employees have a firm sense of what they want and will vote with their feet, so it is vital that the resilience and stability of this generation is bolstered and supported to succeed.

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