Why Millennial and Gen Z Workers Are Stressed—And What to Do About It

Young professional woman working from home

It’s no secret that Millennial (and in the future, Gen Z) workers are taking over the workplace—in fact, Millennials currently make up the majority of the workforce. But what’s less well known and focused on is what’s stressing them out. 

Most employers probably already realize that younger generations of workers, including Millennials and Gen Z, are different from the more traditional Boomers or Gen X employees. For example, they’re more health conscious, want to live in cities, and are slower to have children and buy houses. They also want more out of work. 

Millennials and Gen Zs also expect more out of their employers—including assistance coping with the range of stressors they’re facing at home. Organizations that want to effectively recruit and hold on to their Millennial and Gen Z employees can benefit significantly from understanding the types of career, care, and educational stressors that these workers are coping with. 

The stress confronting Millennials and Gen Zs can impact days, weeks, and even months of work. That’s why it’s critical for employers to understand the underlying dynamics of what is causing stress among their Millennial and Generation Z workforce so they can devise solutions to support these employees at work and at home. 

Four Important Issues that Millennials and Gen Zs Are Stressed About 

To help organizations understand the major stress points that younger employees are facing and what they might be able to do about them, Bright Horizons surveyed a representative sample of over 1,000 Gen Z and Millennial workers across the United States in April and May, 2022. To be included in the survey, participants had to be U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 42 and employed full or part-time. Full-time students were excluded. 

The results were illuminating, not just because of the stress points identified, but because of the opportunities they provide for employers to retool their benefits strategy for greater competitive advantage through an engaged and experienced Millennial and Gen Z workforce. 

Of course, many of the workers surveyed were stressed about what you might expect, such as financial well-being (86%), physical well-being (76%), buying a house (45%), and fertility (40%). 
But it’s helpful to look more closely at a few selected highlights: 

  • 70% of survey respondents were stressed about career advancement and growth, which is logical since these generations are in the early-mid stages of their careers and their future success can depend significantly not only on job performance but education, opportunities, and career decisions, such as choosing one area of specialization over another.
  • Educational attainment is especially concerning to Gen Zs with 65% stressed about education. 
  • Child care and education are also keeping survey respondents up at night: 71% are stressed about their children’s education, while Millennial and Gen Z workers with children under six years of age (65%) are stressed about paying for child care

Stress for Frontline Workers Comes Down to Self, Family, and Education 

Perhaps no set of workers have experienced more stress over the past few years than frontline workers. Frontline workers, including those in healthcare, manufacturing, and retail don’t have the office and work flexibility that’s often given to other industries. As a result, these workers are facing more and different stressors than other non-frontline workers, a fact highlighted by survey results. 

Specifically, frontline workers are more stressed about their financial well-being (91% vs. 82% overall) and education attainment (50% vs. 42%) than non-frontline workers. But there was also an important family focus to some of the stress that frontline workers are facing, including stress about their parents':

  • physical health (72% vs. 64%),  
  • mental well-being (67% vs. 57%), and
  • financial well-being (56% vs. 49%). 

As you might expect, frontline workers also report feeling significantly more “burnt out” in the past year compared to non-frontline Millennial and Gen Z workers (75% vs. 55%). One segment of frontline workers, those in healthcare, have been particularly hard hit over the past few years from on-going physical and emotional stress, continuing personal health risks, increased worker burnout, and worker shortages.  

The survey results make the stress of those challenges personal. What’s especially stressful for healthcare employees (as compared to non-healthcare employees) are the following items related to healthcare workers’ children and their education, specifically they are stressed about:   

  • their children’s educational development (84% of healthcare workers are stressed about it vs. 70% of non-healthcare parents), 
  • paying off student loans (45% vs. 35%) 

Stress and The New World of Work 

The stressors listed above that Millennials and Gen Z workers are facing have important implications for employers given how much the working environment and worker expectations have changed over the past few years. 

No matter how much they might want to, employers and employees are not going back to work the way it was before the pandemic. Over the past few years, the traditional employee-employer relationship has changed and a new world of work has evolved, one in which employers need to provide support for employees not just at work, but also at home. 

That’s why it is critically important for employers to have a solid understanding of what challenges and stressors employees are facing at home and be able to deliver strategies for helping with them. 

That’s where benefits come in. Companies have traditionally provided essentially a laundry list of benefits for employees that can provide value in a variety of areas, from education benefits to retirement benefits to life insurance. 

But with the new world of work, it’s no longer good enough for employers to offer just a checklist of benefits. Instead, employers should have flexible and personalized benefit strategies that allow their workers the support needed to take advantage of individualized benefits. For example, a forward-looking organization might provide child care that frees up an employee’s time and capacity to advance their career or achieve educational goals. Simply offering a benefit without support to take advantage of the benefit could be equivalent to not even offering the benefit itself if employees can’t make use of it. 

Gaining Competitive Advantage with a Millennial and Gen Z Workforce Through Flexible, Personalized Benefits 

As Millennials and Gen Zs face the types of stressors highlighted above, they’re looking to their employers for personalized support and greater benefit flexibility so they can not only reduce stress in their lives, but also achieve family, educational, and professional goals. As a result, organizations that hope to meet the needs of these workers should consider a more holistic approach to benefits. It should be unique to the employer and workplace culture. 

Whether you’re in the manufacturing, healthcare, or any other industry, taking a holistic approach to your workforce and offering them personalized benefits that meet their needs at home will provide companies with a competitive advantage, since the company will end up with a higher quality product, healthcare environment, or workforce. It will reduce employee churn, training and onboarding costs, and increase productivity through engaged, experienced workers. 


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