We’ve all got used to hearing how life in the West is pretty much the best it has ever been in history – more peaceful, safer, more prosperous, healthier and generally the best. We took it for granted. And now that conviction that life will go on as before has been rudely disturbed.
Suddenly we’re being reminded of the fragility of life – the fragility that other times in history and other parts of the world right now have always endured. And for many that is proving a difficult challenge.
Just today we were talking to a young manager in Seoul, South Korea. He’s been in self-imposed isolation in his small apartment for a month now. He hasn’t been outside or spoken face to face with anyone in that time. He’s communicating through his organisation’s network and Skype with co-workers every day, and he’s seeing more and more of them confessing to depression of various sorts.
After all, in other circumstances this would be called solitary confinement, it’s a punishment, and we know from POWs and others that it can have a negative impact on someone’s mental health. We need to be careful about ‘working from home’ or self-isolation, as even the most robust of people can find it psychologically difficult.
And that’s before we feed in the realisation that, at this point, we don’t know what’s coming next, how bad it will be, how long it will last, or what the eventual outcomes will be. Nobody actually knows, not even the experts governments are leaning on – the experts are the first to point this out.
So will GenZ cope? We suspect they’ll cope better than Millennials, although we have yet to see the proof. But we’re seeing some pointers.
We know that GenZ have grown up with threats and worries – 911, the great 2008 financial crash that wiped out family and friends, school shootings and stabbings, the list goes on. This is not a generation that thinks everything is Disney-wonderful.
It’s been noted many times that those who grew up in the toughest of days like the Great Depression or World War II tend to be more resilient throughout their lives. That’s a truth we know, but it’s also logical. So perhaps GenZ, many of whom saw their family homes repossessed in 2008 or 2009, many of whom particularly in the USA got farmed out to relatives as companies and industries collapsed – they’ll be able to deal with this better than those who grew up in more stable, confident times.
GenZers themselves aren’t that sure. In a Pew Research Center survey of Americans from 13 to 17, a massive 70% thought that anxiety and depression were the major issues for them. And it’s in these most advanced of countries, like the USA, Canada and the UK, that we find the highest percentage of anxiety regarding work.
The Workforce Institute ofKronos found in a survey that GenZers in the workplace suffered from low self-esteem (17%), lacked motivation (20%) and suffered from outright anxiety(34% overall, but rising to 39% for women).
This was all before Covid-19 of course.
You could argue those figures are yet another demonstration of the self-awareness that GenZers display – as opposed to the self-regard of their predecessors. But ‘cometh the hour, cometh the (wo)man’. We’re confident that, once the shock wears off and the new realities sink in, GenZ will step up and be valuable members of the community and the organisation.
After all, they’re already experts at working from home, using technology to its best advantage, and comfortable with communicating remotely. Maybe we’d better contact them to get some tips.