Gen Z faces more pressure at work than previous generations because technology has eliminated work-life boundaries, a psychology professor says

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Gen Z faces more pressure at work than previous generations because technology has eliminated work-life boundaries, a psychology professor says
Technology has meant that most workers are now always contactable. fizkes/Getty Images
  • A Columbia University psychology professor said technology has killed work-life boundaries.
  • In the past, workers were unreachable after they went home. This is no longer the case.
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Gen Z is often getting flak for struggling to handle stress at work, but according to a psychology professor, this is largely because this generation has grown up without work-life boundaries.

Kathleen Pike, who teaches at Columbia University and is president and CEO of One Mind at Work, told Business Insider that older generations didn’t face the same technology-induced pressures at the start of their career.

"When they [older generations] started out, it was a completely different world," she said.

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"There's a lot written about Gen Z needing to take more time off and not having the resilience to endure and reliably push through in certain work contexts.

50 years ago, when the senior executives were starting out, they drove to work, and there was no cellphone, there was no internet, there was no FedEx," she added.

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Pike pointed to technology as the culprit behind younger professionals’ struggles.

In the past, "nothing was instantaneous, and when they [workers] went home, they were not reachable. So there was a natural macro structure that created lots of downtime that has completely evaporated," she said.

As a result, Gen Z is trying to create a clearer divide between their work and personal life.

"Part of what we're seeing is Gen Z is trying to put some boundaries back in place," Pike said. "It’s a clear generational distinction."

Many young professionals are turning to trends like "act your wage" or "quiet quitting" — essentially, doing the bare minimum to keep their job but to avoid burning out.

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Although Gen Z is normalizing the conversation around mental health at work, Pike said that they’re sometimes forgetting the distinction between normal emotions and mental illness.

Feeling stressed or anxious can be useful indicators to help you complete tasks but are not always signs of serious mental illness, she said.

"Success grows out of learning how to get back on the horse, learning how to build the skills, how to ask for help, and how to build capacity in ways that didn't exist. That's part of maturing in the workplace," she added.

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