Thursday, July 25, 2024

‘I wasn’t built to work 9-to-5 every single day’: These Gen Z bosses introduced ‘slump hour,’ siestas, chilled one-to-ones and flattened structures because they’re done with formal corporate traditions

Must read

Sleep experts, for example, are concerned about the impact of forcing a human to wake up at an allotted time—and subsequently back to sleep—as opposed to allowing a person’s body clock to synchronize with natural daylight hours.

When an employee gets to work, science also suggests individuals can’t concentrate nonstop.

In her book Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity,” Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, outlines that in 2004 her research into average attention span found humans could focus on a screen for approximately two-and-a-half minutes.

“Some years later, we found attention spans to be about 75 seconds. Now we find people can only pay attention to one screen for an average of 47 seconds,” she told CNN.

It’s unsurprising, then, that a survey of 10,000 employees found that 45% of workers tasked with an eight-hour day actually work just half of that, spending the rest of their time surfing the internet, scrolling social media or making a coffee.

These findings might have hit upon a notion Gen Z has been trying to explain to their cross-generational peers.

Young bosses told Fortune they’re “wired differently” after growing up in a Western world where avoiding screens, smartphones and social media is virtually impossible.

However, the foundations of today’s global economy are built on traditional, corporate careers where labor logs on and clocks out day in, day out.

To allow complete flexibility of workforces could make forecasting impossible, productivity more difficult to measure, and cause friction in communication.

The Gen Z founders Fortune spoke to want to meet somewhere in the middle: building businesses where everyone is focused on an ultimate ambition, but have the autonomy within that to form their working days.

‘This cannot be the concept any longer’

While Australian founder Milly Bannister’s TikTok page is full of fun, tongue-in-cheek takes on being a Gen Z entrepreneur, the 27-year-old’s platform acts as a segue into her life-changing work.

Bannister leads a team of five out of Sydney and runs the charity ALLKND.

Her organization is working to prevent the number of youth suicides in Australia, where 350 people aged between 18 and 24 take their lives every year—more than the number of people who die on the road.

@millyrosebannister Replying to @Andy Nieves Part 2 💀 #genz #boss #workplace #taylorswift #taylorsversion #midnightstaylorswift #australia ♬ original sound – MILZ

While content creation is a useful opener for Bannister, helping those battling with mental health is her “purpose.”

Her insight into the struggles facing Gen Z pushed her to roll out policies in her own organization that support individual well-being.

For Bannister it may be something as simple as not scheduling meetings immediately after lunch—”we call it ‘slump hour’” she tells Fortune in a video interview.

This flexibility extends throughout the working day—sometimes she takes a siesta in the middle of the afternoon, eats a square meal and then sits back down at her laptop and works into the night.

“Especially as a mental health org it’s like: ‘What do you need to be able to function your best?’” Bannister said.

“If you need to go home and then punch something out at 11 p.m. after you’ve had a four-hour nap, go for it. As long as the work gets done it doesn’t matter to me.

“I was not made to work 9-to-5 every single day, I cannot focus for that long. This cannot be the concept any longer, it needs to be more flexible than that,” Bannister added.

Using the corporate ladder for firewood

While many in the workforce may have felt the same, not all have had the opportunity to change the way they work.

Bannister says she, and her Gen Z peers, are willing to scrap the corporate ladder entirely if it means building a structure that works for them.

The difference between Gen Z and their predecessors, Bannister added, is the largest the workforce has ever encountered.

She reasoned: “We are the first generation to grow up online and our brains, as a result of that, are wired completely differently. The way that we learn and participate in society and communicate with each other is completely different.”

This is an area where fellow founder Jenk Oz comes in, courtesy of his news and culture website Thred, and its adjoining full-service media and consulting branch.

Oz, 18, launched the London-based business aged just 15 to give a platform to the news his peers truly wanted to see—whether it’s tech, culture, style, hustles, or change-makers.

His insight—and his site’s 350,000 page views a month—led the likes of Microsoft and Ford to get in touch, asking for advice on how to engage with his generation.

One of the earliest members of Google’s Gen Z council, Oz has still sought to get experienced talent on board—hiring his Goldman Sachs and UBS-alum mom as CFO to help lead the staff of 34.

As well as shaking up the boardroom courtesy of close familial relationships, Oz also isn’t interested in being someone’s “boss.”

As he looks across his office while chatting to Fortune, he claims any bystander would be unable to tell which individuals held senior roles.

“There’s this whole onslaught of companies being run by Gen Z,” Oz said. “Gen Z runs people like they would like to be run… because there are so many Gen Z creators they’re able to lay the foundation from the bottom up as opposed to changing the traditional workplace.

“There’s a desire to be heard on a higher frequency and better quality level. This idea of having a quarterly or twice-yearly meeting about how you’re doing doesn’t really work with Gen Z.”

As a result, Oz sits down with his team members on a casual, weekly basis, encourages them to work flexibly and to see him as a sounding board as opposed to a founder.

“I’ve had conversations with people and said: ‘Oh do you want to show your manager?’ And they’re like: ‘No, I’m a bit scared of them, I can’t really talk to them,’” Oz recalls. “That’s so bizarre to me… I really want to change that and get rid of any hierarchies.”

Why reach the summit?

Another issue Gen Z has with the corporate 9-to-5 is that social media transparency has lifted the lid on the reality, and they don’t like what’s underneath.

As Meagan Loyst, the 1997-born founder of investment community GenZ VCs puts it: “The corporate content most widely being shared [on social media] at the moment is layoffs,” where individuals are posting the moment they’re called onto Zoom to be told their contract is terminated.

Already primed for corporate disillusion thanks to the pandemic, Gen Z is not only watching people their age be let go, but also peers senior to them who have spent decades with a company.

There are two responses to this, says Loyst. The first: “You pair that with the troubles globally, cost of living, and you just question: ‘Why do we even bother? I’m just going to take the job that gives me the most money and the best work-life balance and go from there.’”

The second, and Loyst’s camp: “I’m going to do as much as I possibly can so that I can own my future.”

Disillusion with work—or as some may see it, a work-shy tendencyisn’t a fair stereotype to brand across all young talent, the founders feel.

As Oz puts it: “It’s very easy to generalize Gen Z but no generation is a monolith. Gen Z, of all generations, is clumped into a group and generalized massively… it’s borderline frustrating.”

Peers have “grouped 14 to 27-year-olds together,” Oz adds, but said this is a problem because “kids in their GSCE year (aged 15/16) are very different and work different levels of hard… to someone who’s in their A-Levels (aged 17/18), or their gap year, or their first year of university. Every couple of years you hit a different milestone.”

And while “there are lazy people within them—I’m by no means saying people aren’t lazy—what’s annoying is that especially at our age there are different milestones and that will massively change,” he explained.

On a fiscal level it changes who you live with, whether you’re paying rent, your education level, spending priorities—all those things massively change. So these misconceptions of being lazy and having no sense of direction is generally quite unfair.”

Subscribe to the CEO Daily newsletter to get the CEO perspective on the biggest headlines in business. Sign up for free.

More articles

Latest article