Gen Z job seekers prioritise mental health and work-life balance in job search

Young Singaporeans emphasise mental wellness benefits and inclusive work cultures when evaluating potential employers

Gen Z job seekers prioritise mental health in their job search criteria as the job market evolves
Gen Z job seekers prioritise mental health in their job search criteria as the job market evolves (PHOTO: Getty Images/Istockphoto)

SINGAPORE — As the job market continues to evolve, a growing number of Gen Z individuals are prioritising mental health at the forefront of their job search criteria.

Rabiatul Adawiyah, a 23-year-old graduating student from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA, exemplifies this trend.

While aspiring to pursue university studies, she is also considering finding a stable job. Rabiatul emphasises the importance of work-life balance and mental wellness benefits when evaluating potential employers.

"The first thing I consider is the job requirements. Even if the role is unfamiliar, I believe I can learn and adapt. I also consider the working hours and if the salary aligns with my needs. Work-life balance is crucial; the younger generation recognises this necessity. They desire quality time with loved ones and moments to prioritise self-care," she explains.

In her pursuit of finding a job that prioritises mental well-being, Rabiatul believes that companies can learn from overseas counterparts who implement initiatives such as company trips. "These efforts resonate with the Gen Z or older generation, appreciating the steps bosses take to create a supportive work environment," she adds.

Rabiatul believes that the first impression and the employer's approach are vital when attending interviews.

"The choice of words, tone, and overall interaction leave an impression on both parties. Once the conversation begins, I inquire about additional benefits beyond leaves and medical coverage. Mental wellness benefits hold significant importance to me. It reflects how management addresses staff concerns and welfare," Rabiatul shares.

According to Adrian Choo, CEO and Founder of Career Agility International, Gen Z job seekers like Rabiatul seek meaningful engagement in their work.

"Post-pandemic trauma, workplace wellness has gained prominence, extending beyond mental wellness to encompass overall well-being. Companies that focus on workplace wellness can attract and retain top talent."

Choo also highlights that young job seekers look for alignment between their values and the purpose of their work. "They want the money and an ability to relate to the kind of work they do," he explains.

Choo also commends Singapore's efforts to destigmatise emotional and mental illnesses, to the extent that job interviewers are prohibited from asking related questions.

"I would applaud the government on this because the Ministry of Manpower has put in a lot of effort in destigmatising emotional and mental illness to the point where even now in job interviews, the interviewer is not allowed to be asking questions regarding that. I think that's really good," he acknowledges.

Choo also recognises the long-term benefits for companies that prioritise their employees' well-being.

"Over the years, companies have become aware that they need to keep their staff sharp and healthy. Burnout is a very real issue. If not addressed, it can lead to high employee turnover and reduced productivity, which ultimately affects the bottom line," he emphasises.

Gen Z's focus on inclusive work cultures

Dr David Leong, chairman and managing director of PeopleWorldwide Consulting, echoes the sentiments of Rabiatul and Choo. He emphasises that Gen Z job seekers value positive, inclusive work cultures that promote diversity, collaboration and mental health.

"The growing awareness of mental health has led companies to prioritise mental health benefits and resources for their employees," Leong states.

In Singapore, government initiatives reflect the societal recognition of mental health's importance as more young individuals seek mental health support.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted mental health challenges, prompting human resources practices to adapt, according to Leong.

To foster a mentally healthy workplace, companies adopt various approaches. Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) offer confidential counselling services and stress management resources.

Flexible work arrangements, including remote and hybrid models, enable employees to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Mindfulness and wellness programmes, such as meditation sessions and stress management workshops, are also gaining popularity, he added.

Leong said creating a culture of openness surrounding mental health is another priority. Leaders encourage conversations and aim to reduce the stigma associated with mental health challenges. Training managers to recognise and support team members struggling with mental health is becoming increasingly common.

"Some companies even offer mental health days to allow employees to focus on their well-being," he added.

Embracing the gap year

Embrace the Journey: Adrian Choong's advice for Gen Z contemplating a gap year, urging them to embrace personal growth and seize unique experiences
Embrace the Journey: Adrian Choong's advice for Gen Z contemplating a gap year, urging them to embrace personal growth and seize unique experiences. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

While mental health awareness has made significant strides in the workplace, Nur Athirah, a 23-year-old, shares her experience with considering a gap year.

After graduating from her diploma in Early Childhood three years ago, Nur Athirah initially desired to take a gap year. However, circumstances during the circuit breaker period, led her to prioritise finding a job to support her family.

"I wanted to take a gap year, but I graduated during the circuit breaker. Due to the financial crisis, I had to find a job to support my family. I was afraid I wouldn't secure employment," Nur Athirah explains.

Reflecting on her experience, Nur Athirah believes that a gap year could have allowed her to take a break and make more informed decisions about her career path. She acknowledges the importance of not rushing into a job without careful consideration.

Choo, offering advice to Gen Z individuals considering a gap year, encourages them to seize the opportunity for personal growth and unique experiences.

He emphasises that employers are not necessarily concerned about the gap year itself but rather the activities and accomplishments during that time.

"Gen Z individuals thinking about taking a gap year should go ahead and do it. Gain experiences, explore new territories. Employers won't discriminate against a gap year, but they will be interested in what you did during that time," he advises.

Activities such as travelling, learning new languages, or engaging in meaningful community work can positively impact job prospects, he added.

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