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Let’s invest for Gen Z productivity

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Investing in addressing intergenerational communication gap in workplace will help improve Gen Zers mental wellbeing (Jason Goodman - Unsplash)

By Amni Sahira Muhammad Azam

Much has been said about the Gen Z workforce, particularly regarding their attitudes and expectations towards work, remuneration, and work-life balance. One aspect that warrants continuous conversation is how their mental wellbeing is affecting their productivity at work.

Amni Sahira Muhammad Azam

As a Gen Z myself, I propose that the lack of comprehensive mental health education in early education systems has significantly impacted our ability to manage stress and maintain productivity in the workplace.

A 2024 study published in the ‘Educational Administration: Theory and Practice’ journal highlights several key contributors to this issue. One of the primary concerns is the lack of coping strategies. Without proper education on mental health and stress management, many Gen Zers enter the workforce unprepared to handle the pressures and demands of their jobs. This unpreparedness often translates into a lack in skills and strategies necessary to cope with work-related stresses.

Additionally, the stigma surrounding mental health issues and the absence of open discussions about mental wellbeing in schools is making the problem worse. This stigma can prevent Gen Zers from seeking help when needed, thus leading to increased stress and decreased productivity in the workplace. Without a supportive environment that encourages open dialogue about mental health, many young workers may feel isolated, overwhelmed, and depressed.

Understanding workplace expectations is a challenge faced by many Gen Zers too. Without proper guidance and education, they may struggle to meet the demands placed upon them, which can result in increased stress levels and reduced productivity. The transition from an academic setting to a professional environment requires a set of skills that comprehensive mental health education could provide.

Lastly, the development of self-awareness and emotional intelligence is crucial for managing stress and maintaining productivity. Comprehensive mental health education in early education systems can foster these skills, yet their absence means that many Gen Zers are ill-equipped to handle workplace stressors. Building emotional intelligence from a young age could enhance their ability to manage work-related pressures.

To address these challenges, I believe that intergenerational communication plays a crucial role in supporting Gen Z’s mental health in the workplace. As the newest generation to enter the current workforce, Gen Z faces unique challenges and stressors that may differ from those experienced by older generations. According to the Society for Human Resource Management in the US, there are several strategies to improve this communication issue.

One of the main challenges in supporting Gen Z’s mental health is the communication gap that often exists between generations in the workplace. Gen Z has a distinct communication style that may be perceived as abrupt or confrontational by older colleagues. It is essential for workplaces to provide training and resources to help bridge this gap and promote effective communication across generations. Bridging the communication gap involves understanding these differences and finding common ground to allow for more productive interactions.

Managers, supervisors, and leaders in a work organization play a crucial role in setting the tone for mental health support in the workplace. By demonstrating authentic empathy, they can create an environment where Gen Z employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health concerns. This involves openly acknowledging challenges, engaging in active listening, and providing support when needed. Such an approach fosters a culture of openness and trust, which is important for mental wellbeing.

While individual mental health benefits are important, various research on human resources suggests that Gen Z and other generations prefer a healthy, sustainable work culture as the most helpful support for mental health. Workplaces should prioritize investments in creating a positive work culture that values work-life balance, flexibility, and employee well-being. Prioritizing work culture over individual benefits can include offering flexible work arrangements, protecting employees from unsustainable workloads, and fostering a culture of open communication and support. These measures can definitely enhance overall employee satisfaction and productivity.

Furthermore, workplaces can support Gen Z’s mental health by providing education and resources on mental health topics. This can include workshops on stress management, mindfulness, and work-life balance, as well as access to mental health professionals and support services. Providing mental health education and resources equips Gen Z employees with the knowledge and tools to manage their mental health effectively, helping them thrive in the workplace.

To truly enhance the productivity of Gen Z in the workplace, it’s important that we start from the ground up. Education systems must integrate comprehensive mental health education to better prepare young individuals for the stressors of modern work life. Simultaneously, workplaces must prioritize fostering intergenerational understanding and communication. By doing so, we not only support the mental wellbeing of our youngest workforce but also pave the way for a more collaborative and productive future for all generations.

I think it’s time that we invest in these fundamental changes for a healthier, more effective work environment.

The author is a final year counselling degree student at the Faculty of Education, Universiti Malaya.

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