Gen Z is Over Hustle Culture, and Other Generations Agree

By Erica Sweeney

Published November 1, 2022

Erica Sweeney is a freelance journalist who covers health, wellness, business, careers, and lots of other topics. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, HuffPost, Men’s Health, Business Insider, and many more publications.

Whether they’re working in person, at home, or hybrid, many workers of all generations are feeling unmotivated and burned out. They’re being asked to take on more at work, while also still juggling their home-life priorities and worrying about the uncertain economic times. 


But, Gen Z is pushing for change—that largely includes prioritizing mental health, setting boundaries with employers and saying goodbye to hustle culture (as it was previously known). And, older generations are fully on board with moving on from these workplace dynamics. 


Indeed conducted a survey of about 1,000 workers from across generations, including baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z, to identify how they are experiencing and finding solutions to overwhelming work issues that leave them feeling burned out. 


In these situations, many workers may turn to “quiet quitting.” A term that’s received a lot of buzz recently—the TikTok hashtag #quietquitting has been viewed more than 236 million times. According to Harvard Business Review, quiet quitting refers to employees focusing solely on their assigned duties, becoming less psychologically invested in their work and saying no to extra tasks. 


However, our survey revealed that workers of all ages are unified in their definition of quite quitting, and it might not be what you think it is. Here’s what we discovered about what’s affecting worker motivation, how they define quiet quitting and what they see as solutions to these problems. 


All workers feel burned out to some degree 


The majority of workers we surveyed (70%) work full-time in-office, and they want to keep it that way. Still, most of them say they dread going to work every day. Across the board, workers are feeling burned out. Gen Z is feeling it the most at 78%, followed by baby boomers (72%), Gen X (63%), and millennials (60%). 


They’re also reporting that their motivation at work has suffered over the past 12 months, with baby boomers experiencing the biggest motivation drop at 90%. 


What’s causing the diminished motivation? The top reason across generations was having additional responsibilities to balance at home. Gen X and baby boomers also listed a lack of recognition from their bosses as making them feel unmotivated. Millennials cited having a micromanaging boss, and Gen Z said it was because they’re being asked to perform tasks that aren’t in their job descriptions. 


In addition, baby boomers (65%) and Gen Z (64%) say their mental health has been negatively impacted by their jobs in the past 12 months. Fifty-five percent of Gen X and 61% of millennials said the same. A major factor in the self-reported decline in mental health may have to do with most workers saying that their work tends to get in the way of pursuing personal interests and spending time with friends and family. 


How generations define ‘quiet quitting’


Quiet quitting is the latest workplace trend, and our survey revealed that all generations have witnessed it among their co-workers. They also agree on a definition for the term, saying quiet quitting means “taking time for oneself during the workday.” That definition differs from what you might have heard in media reports. 


Baby boomers (93%) have noticed the most instances of quiet quitting among their co-workers. The majority of all survey respondents say employees shouldn’t be penalized for quiet quitting. They say that it doesn’t matter how their co-workers allocate their time, as long as they get their work done. However, while workers mostly view the term in a positive light, they believe their company’s leadership sees it negatively, with the majority of respondents saying their supervisors have discussed quiet quitting and their working hours with them over the past 12 months. 


Quiet quitting doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is slacking off. Almost all workers say having time to take a break during the day helps them produce higher-quality work. More than half said they sometimes end their workday at 5 p.m., even if it means leaving work unfinished. They realize that setting healthy boundaries means that they can finish up projects the next day. 


Workers are setting new boundaries at work 


Boundaries are so important to employees that baby boomers (91%), Gen X (86%), millennials (84%) and Gen Z (87%) feel comfortable stepping away during business hours—as long as they still get their work done. When they do step away, baby boomers and Gen X are more likely to prioritize personal or household tasks, while millennials and Gen Z prioritize caring for children or a loved one. 


All generations value healthy working boundaries, and most of the employees we surveyed said their bosses encourage them to set these boundaries. 


According to previous Indeed research, nearly 60% of employees believe that employers are responsible for an individual’s happiness at work, and many think their employers aren’t doing enough to improve employee well-being. Almost all workers say their happiness at work affects their happiness at home, including their quality of life, self-confidence and career trajectory. 


While Indeed’s most recent survey suggests that setting boundaries is crucial for employee well-being, many still think that going above and beyond at work is necessary for getting ahead. The most common ways workers go above and beyond are by helping coworkers finish tasks and spending extra time on tasks to make sure they’re done perfectly. More than 40% of workers of all generations take on tasks outside their job descriptions every day or every week. Sometimes, they work after regular business hours and during lunch breaks, too. 


Even though workers may feel the need to go above and beyond, downtime matters for several reasons. Across age groups, workers agreed that taking breaks increases overall job satisfaction, makes them more productive and helps them avoid burnout. 


Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, many workers, especially women, have had even more responsibilities placed on them. With juggling increased home and work duties, more than 50% of women with children said the stress and worry affected their mental health, and 20% said the impact was “major,” according to Kaiser Family Foundation.


The importance of motivation at work 


With so many employees reporting declining motivation, burnout and stress, many are looking to make changes to improve their situation. More than 40% of workers across generations say lack of motivation in their current role is inspiring them to actively look for a new job. And, many are considering changing jobs soon. 


Over the past two years, workers have been quitting their jobs in record numbers, a phenomenon referred to as the great resignation. Nearly 48 million people quit their jobs in 2021, and 20% of workers planned to quit in 2022. 


On the opposite end of the spectrum, feeling motivated at work tends to inspire employees to stay put with a company. More than 40% of baby boomers and 35% of Gen Z said they feel most motivated when their work is meaningful and challenging. Gen X’s top motivator was being supported by their company’s leadership, and millennials cited feeling motivated when being fairly compensated. 


While there may be different motivating factors for each generational group, you may be surprised to learn that all of the generations surveyed are largely seeking the same things.


Intergenerational perspectives on quiet quitting are largely unified


Generations often like to take jabs at one another, especially when working together. But, Indeed’s survey revealed that these groups actually have a lot in common and feel mutual respect. When asked to describe their coworkers of other generations, each group used terms like responsible, dedicated, cooperative and hardworking. 


Millennials are considered the most hardworking, according to 28% of all survey respondents. Thirty percent considered Gen X the most responsible. Gen Z was viewed as the most flexible (19%). 


Despite their differences, everyone of every generation seems to be having similar experiences at work these days, too. Motivation is a struggle and burnout is common, and they see boundaries and quiet quitting as solutions to these problems.


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