Generation Z Job Seekers Put Mental Health First
6 mins read

Generation Z Job Seekers Put Mental Health First

Generation Z Job Seekers Put Mental Health First

Generation Z job seekers are prioritizing mental health as the job market evolves (PHOTO: Getty Images/Istockphoto)

SINGAPORE — As the job market evolves, an increasing number of Generation Z are putting mental health at the forefront of their job search criteria.

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

As she works toward university, she’s also considering finding a stable job. Rabiatul emphasizes the importance of work-life balance and the benefits of mental well-being 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 hours and whether the salary is in line with my needs. Work-life balance is key; the younger generation recognizes this necessity. They want to spend quality time with loved ones and moments to prioritize self-care,” she explains.

In her quest to find jobs that prioritize mental well-being, Rabiatul believes companies can learn from their foreign counterparts who are implementing initiatives like business trips. “These efforts resonate with Gen Z or older generations who appreciate the steps their bosses are taking to create a supportive work environment,” she adds.

Rabiatul believes that the first impression and the employer’s approach are crucial during job interviews.

“Word choice, tone and overall interaction make an impression on both parties. When the conversation starts, I ask about benefits beyond vacation and medical insurance. Mental health benefits are important to me. They reflect how management is addressing employee concerns and well-being,” says Rabiatul.

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

“In the wake of the pandemic, workplace wellness has become increasingly important, extending beyond mental well-being to encompass overall well-being. Companies that focus on workplace wellness can attract and retain the best talent.”

Choo also emphasizes that young job seekers look for alignment between their values ​​and the purpose of their work. “They want the money and the ability to relate to the type of work they do,” he explains.

Choo also praises Singapore’s efforts to destigmatize emotional and mental illness, to the point that job interviewers are banned from asking questions about it.

“I would like to praise the government for this because the Ministry of Labour has put a lot of effort into destigmatising emotional and mental illnesses to the point that even now during job interviews, a recruiter is not allowed to ask questions about it. I think it’s really good,” he admits.

Choo also sees long-term benefits for companies that put the well-being of their employees first.

“Over the years, companies have realized that they need to keep their employees fit and healthy. Burnout is a very real problem. If left unaddressed, it can lead to high employee turnover and reduced productivity, which ultimately impacts the bottom line,” he emphasizes.

Gen Z’s focus on inclusive work culture

Dr. David Leong, chairman and managing director of PeopleWorldwide Consulting, echoes Rabiatul and Choo’s sentiments. He emphasizes 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 prioritize mental health benefits and resources for their employees,” Leong says.

In Singapore, government initiatives reflect public awareness of the importance of mental health as more and more young people seek support.

According to Leong, the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted mental health issues, prompting HR departments to adapt.

To support a mentally healthy workplace, companies are taking a variety of approaches. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) offer confidential counseling services and resources for managing stress.

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

Leong said creating a culture of openness around mental health is another priority. Leaders are encouraging conversations and working to reduce the stigma around mental health issues. Training managers to recognize and support team members struggling with mental health is becoming more common.

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

Taking advantage of your gap year

Follow the Path: Adrian Choong's advice for Gen Z considering a gap year, encouraging them to engage in personal growth and unique experiencesFollow the Path: Adrian Choong's advice for Gen Z considering a gap year, encouraging them to engage in personal growth and unique experiences

Take on the challenge: Adrian Choong’s advice for Gen Z considering a gap year, encouraging them to focus on personal growth and unique experiences. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

While mental health awareness in the workplace has made significant progress, Nur Athirah, 23, shares her experience of considering a gap year.

After graduating with a degree in Early Childhood three years ago, Nur Athirah initially wanted to take a gap year. However, circumstances during the circuit breaker period meant she prioritized finding a job to support her family.

“I wanted to take a gap year, but I finished my studies during the gap year. Due to the financial crisis, I had to find a job to support my family. I was afraid that I would not find 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.

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

He stresses that employers are not necessarily interested in the gap year itself, but rather in the activities and achievements during that time.

“Gen Zers who are thinking about taking a gap year should do it. Gain experience, explore new territory. Employers won’t discriminate against you for taking a gap year, but they will be interested in what you did during that time,” she advises.

He added that activities such as traveling, learning new languages ​​or engaging in worthwhile social activities can positively impact career prospects.

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