Gen Z are new to work but are already burnt out

A woman is stressed behind her computer. She has her hands on her head.

While many workers are struggling to cope with work stress and money woes, new data shows that Gen Z is feeling it more than their older co-workers.

During the pandemic, burnout became a buzzword in the world of work, but it is a very real phenomenon. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, overwork, and lack of support. While burnout affects individuals of all ages and professions, it is severely impacting Gen Z employees.

While Gen Z is more qualified to enter the workforce than older generations, it seems that they are already burnt out. According to Cigna International Health’s 2023 survey, 91 per cent of employees between 18 and 24 years old are stressed out. That is compared to the 84 per cent of the overall employees that took part in the survey. 

Unlike older generations, younger employees are dealing with burnout by simply quitting. A separate report from Deloitte found that four in 10 Gen Z plan on leaving their jobs within the next two years.

A perfect storm of new and ongoing issues 

Given the fact that pretty much every Gen Z employee is burnt out, it’s important to know the stress points that are causing this. Many point to a permacrisis – combining political instability, cost-of-living crisis, climate change and the war in Ukraine – as the cause of rapid burnout for Gen Z.

The pandemic shut down universities and offices and led to remote work, which can be isolating. Younger employees started their careers without the inter-personal connection that office life brings. Now that the pandemic has settled there is a cost-of-living crisis, soaring inflation and economic instability. Up to 44 per cent of Gen Z employees have taken on extra work for more financial stability. 

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While older colleagues have the experience of working in more settled times, Gen Z only knows relative chaos. Gen Z finished school and started their first jobs in the middle of constant disruptions.

Sue Andrews, an HR and business consultant at KIS Finance, believes that all impacts Gen Z’s wellbeing. “For those who have only experienced constant upheaval, it’s harder to imagine things improving in the future. So, it’s not surprising that many Gen Zs are left feeling overwhelmed and are struggling to cope with today’s challenges.”

Social media’s impact on burnout

Gen Z has grown up with social media, and its daily use plays a significant role in their lives. Social media can be a source of inspiration and connection, but it can also be a source of anxiety.

According to London-based therapist Frankie Herbert, Gen Z’s constant attachment to being online is poor tech hygiene. “They have a much harder time abandoning their screens and social media potentially leading to poor mental health together with the added pressure of limited job opportunities and a self-imposed pressure to be perfect due to the impact of social media.”

“The feeling of not being good enough leads to depression and burnout as well as the pressure to have an online presence is greater than ever.”

A woman is looking out of an office window. Her arms are folded and she looks tired and perhaps a bit stressed.
Not being out at work can be a cause of burnout for the LGBTQ+ Gen Z community. (Getty Images)

Burnout and the LGBTQ+ Gen Z 

Much like imposter syndrome, the younger LGBTQ+ community face added stresses that takes a greater emotional toll. With the constant debate and misinformation from the media on gender politics, trans rights and sexuality, there is an added stigma that queer Gen Z people have to confront.

For those that aren’t out at work, not being their authentic self can be exhausting, which adds to more stress and eventually burnout. 

How to deal with burnout 

When it comes to tackling burnout, the best place to start is identifying where the stressors come from and learning stress management techniques. Something as simple as journaling can keep track of emotions and stress levels. 

For the burnt out Gen Z, unplugging for a bit can be cleansing and prioritises your mental health. Frankie Herbert agrees. “Take a break from social media and avoid watching the news to create some space in your life to recover from stress and avoid adding any unnecessary stressors or triggers that may come from being online.”

It is important to mention that the responsibility of coping with burnout shouldn’t fall entirely on the individual. Employers and businesses have a role to play in preventing burnout along with supporting employees that are experiencing it. 

HR consultant Sue Andrews believes companies need to recognise the additional challenges for young people in the workplace and offer support that matches Gen Z needs. Simple ideas like embracing technology make the younger employees more engaged and feel more involved in the company. 

“Encourage Gen Z employees to take key roles in implementing any new systems will help them to feel that they are an important and intricate part of the team, which is key to reducing workplace anxiety and developing confident employees.”

Gen Z will make up over 25 per cent of the workforce by 2025, so knowing the causes and how to support the well being of younger employees is essential for positive business outcomes.

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