Gen Z treats life as a full-time job and work as a side gig. Other generations are jealous.
- Gen Zers are reimagining how work fits into their life, rather than the other way around.
- Some of their older coworkers wish they could do the same.
Kimi Kaneshina, 24, has a full-time job: her life.
She's also working a 9-to-5 in marketing. But in a March TikTok with more than 50,000 likes, she said she was "considering my full-time job to actually be my part-time job, and life to be my full-time job."
Kaneshina told Insider she was grappling with burnout when she heard about this TikTok trend from a friend. She saw people quitting left and right and decided to make a mindset shift — and posted about it. Over 300,000 people saw her video.
Gen Zers, who are currently under 26, are expected to make up about 27% of the workforce by 2025. They're leading the way in the
Other generations are watching as Gen Zers close their laptops, move abroad to work remotely, and treat their personal lives as their full-time jobs — and they're jealous.
Older generations were expected to adhere to 'pretty unhealthy ways of work'
Seven years ago, Sara Stewart, a 49-year-old Gen Xer, left behind office jobs in New York to work remotely as a freelance writer. She said she had always "chafed" at having an office job and felt like her generation, roughly ages 42 to 57, as well as millennials, 26 to 41, were expected to adhere to "some pretty unhealthy ways of work."
She said she thought it was "ludicrous" that the office structure didn't have more things to benefit employees' mental health and felt like she'd be shirking her work duties if she ducked out for an hour during the day to go to the gym.
"What I wanted to do was explore a healthier work-life structure," she said.
But she said she didn't see any "concrete pushback" on work boundaries until she began reading articles about how Gen Zers were slowing up, taking mental-health days, and delegating to their bosses. Stewart admired the
She said she heard from people her age and older who said that they think it's a positive development and that they wish they had spoken up more against traditional expectations of work.
One such worker is Cayne Letizia, 45, a self-proclaimed "jealous Gen Xer."
"A lot of the expectations for my generation was you're going to go to school, go to college, have a family — it was just certain steps or boxes you had to check," he said.
But he's noticed something different in the students he's taught in the past few years as a middle-school English teacher. When they graduate from college, they're traveling more or looking for jobs that fit their interests.
Watching on the sidelines, he wishes he could've done more when he was their age. "But I see them doing it and just want to support it," he said.
Of course, much of this debate is taking place in a certain type of work, usually among white-collar so-called knowledge workers who don't need much more than a computer to get through the workday. But low-wage workers are also mounting protests — for the past year they've been quitting at near-record rates and pushing back on the norms of work. That's led to staffing crunches for some businesses.
But as Insider's Áine Cain reported, some of those shortages might be alleviated by offering blue-collar workers the same perks as their white-collar peers — benefits like student-loan repayment and mental-health support that Gen Zers have said are key to earning their loyalty.
The responses haven't all been positive
In a TikTok with over 50,000 likes, Avery Monday, 21, stands in front of a palm tree. The text on the screen reads: "When the
"I graduated and came into the workforce with the idea of, like, I'm going to be grinding forever until I die," Monday, an influencer-marketing manager, told Insider. "Then through work, my coworkers, my bosses, I realized that is not the case, and it doesn't have to be that way."
While her TikTok was satirical, Monday said she's dealt with criticism from Gen Xers and boomers. She's heard the word "lazy" thrown around a lot.
That might sound familiar to millennials, who tentatively began to ask for more from work in the heyday of the girlboss and Silicon Valley prodigy worship. They were mocked and blamed for their own economic ruin.
"The millennials got a bad rap, I think," Letizia said. "It was always, like, 'Oh, these millennials!'" He said that the conversation has evolved with Gen Zers, who are "really taking a stand."
Stewart, for instance, said she has a text thread with some of her friends where "we kind of grumble good-naturedly about the Gen Z kids" and the freedom and flexibility they have.
"While we were kind of talking about stuff maybe under our breath or amongst ourselves, or maybe over drinks after work or whatever, they're bringing it into the workplace," Stewart said.
Monday said older workers can join in, too.
"As a society, specifically in America, we've gotten so used to work being your life. You work all day, you eat, and you go to bed, and then you do it all over again, five days a week," Monday said.
She said she wishes that more people of all ages would take a step back and realize that's not how most of the world does it — and it may not bring them the most joy.
"Older generations, if they could wrap their mind around it, they would be able to be a lot more fulfilled and be able to have hobbies and do different things," Monday said. "My hope is for them one day to also take part in that and enjoy it, because every generation deserves a good work life balance."
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