Generation researcher Rüdiger Maas: “Sorry boss, I want a four-day week and home office”: Is GenZ really lazy at work?

I was born in Munich in 2002, graduated from high school in 2021 and then immediately started my journalism training.

Generation researcher Rüdiger Maas: “Sorry boss, I want a four-day week and home office”: Is GenZ really lazy at work?

I was born in Munich in 2002, graduated from high school in 2021 and then immediately started my journalism training. It was clear to me early on where I wanted to go. My generation is constantly told that we want to work less. That we don't feel like working life. This makes me angry because not every person from my generation, Generation Z, born after 1995, is the same.

Whenever I hear this prejudice, I quickly find myself justifying it and wanting to prove to the older generation that GenZ is not unfit for work. "But I'm different, but I do everything, but I also work overtime." But that is actually wrong. This is also how the generation researcher and author Rüdiger Maas sees it. Because I belong to a generation where working life has simply changed.

Rüdiger Maas is the founder of the private institute for generation research in Augsburg. We met there for the interview. The psychologist and author and his team have been researching the lives of different generations for years. He is one of the most renowned GenZ experts, so he is my perfect interview partner for this topic.

Mr. Maas, your book entitled “Generation Unable to Work” was recently published. Is GenZ really lazy at work, as many say? We surveyed over 4,000 people in our study and more than half of GenerationZ confirmed the statement: "Yes, we want to work less." But in the survey we didn't provide a reference point, i.e. at what point do you become lazy or hardworking? The exciting thing about the whole thing is that all generations actually find the same things important in working life. This means that we have changed as a whole as a society. In other words: We have all probably become a little more comfortable, but many older people think that the younger generation is not yet entitled to this level of comfort. Why? A thought from the older generation could be: "I had to work hard back then and that was completely normal. Apprenticeship years are not men's years, why should it suddenly become more pleasant for young people now?"

Do GenZ really call in sick more often? Yes, statistically, younger people have more sick days and are less and less willing to work overtime. But just because a person doesn't work overtime doesn't mean they're lazy. I can't say that a person works slowly if they have to work overtime. The younger generation has made this issue visible. It's simply about efficiency and again about convenience. Young people don't know a world without convenience - because of digitalization. I can use my smartphone to meet new friends, watch films or quickly look up a word. That means I can now do things quickly that used to be much more laborious. Many young people now know no other world than the one described.

“Work-life separation” is what I often read in relation to GenZ. What exactly is that and what does it have to do with me? My team and I see a very clear separation between work and leisure in GenerationZ. Quite the opposite to Millennials or Boomers. There was more of a work-life blend: people like to take their work home with them or they integrate their work with their free time. Something like yoga in the office with your work colleagues. In the past, people identified more with work and today work is just a part of life and no longer the purpose of life. This means that work and leisure have equal importance.

I feel like every older generation looks down on the younger ones in some situations. Doesn't that have something to do with a generational conflict? I wouldn't call it a conflict. It's not just two worlds colliding, but people are now talking past each other. At the same time, we found the following in our study: 20-year-olds demand the same things in the world of work as, for example, a 40-year-old. When has this ever happened in the history of work? It is important that everyone is open to change. You have to take the GenZ more seriously, so take it more seriously, I should treat an 18-year-old like an 18-year-old and not overprotect them or beat them to the wall. Young people are generally becoming less and less willing. This mainly comes from the upbringing that GenZ received. It is often the case that younger people see their parents more as best friends or advisors. The role of the parents has shifted. Through education, young people have learned that the environment usually adapts to them and not the other way around. This also creates the desire for the work to adapt to you.

My very personal conclusion after this conversation: Apparently we have all become a bit more comfortable, back then it was simply different, without the Internet and without the possibility of creating new work concepts. In many areas of work I can choose a lot. Today we no longer have to run to a library to look up a word, our society is evolving. I am proud of my generation and no longer want to justify the prejudices in the future.

So it is simply a translation error to say that young people want to work less. With more openness and understanding in everyday working life, you could even build a bridge between generations.

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