Gen Z
Gen Z workforce

Generation Z, often called Gen Z, has introduced fresh perspectives that challenge traditional work norms, particularly in valuing work-life balance and advocating for modern work trends. However, some of these changes are perceived as "bad habits" by older generations.

One such habit that is hotly debated is the tendency to be more relaxed about punctuality. But is arriving late really such a bad thing? Human resources experts weigh in on the issue.

The Punctuality Debate

A survey conducted by Meeting Canary involving over 1,000 UK workers highlights a significant generational divide in attitudes towards punctuality. Nearly half of the participants aged 16 to 26 (Gen Z) consider arriving five to ten minutes late equivalent to being on time.

In contrast, 70 per cent of baby boomers express zero tolerance for lateness. Millennials and Gen Xers show some leniency, with 40 per cent and 26 per cent being more forgiving of minor delays.

This generational clash over punctuality reflects broader differences in work values and priorities. For older generations, arriving on time is a matter of discipline and respect. Conversely, Gen Z places a higher emphasis on results and overall performance, viewing rigid timekeeping as less critical. This shift, while challenging, offers the potential for a more harmonious and productive workplace.

The Changing Landscape of Work

In a report, Roxanne Calder, a recruitment specialist and founder of Sydney's EST10, notes that lateness has become the norm in many workplaces dominated by Gen Z. She observes that arriving a few minutes late is often overlooked in environments where younger employees constitute a significant portion of the workforce.

This shift can be attributed to several factors, including the flexible work arrangements that became prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote work during the pandemic blurred the lines between professional and personal time, making punctuality more flexible. Virtual meetings allowed for a few minutes delay, a practice that has carried over to in-person work for many Gen Z employees.

Valuing Results Over Rigid Schedules

Upbringing also influences the younger generation's approach to time management in a digitally connected world. With technology enabling efficient multitasking, Gen Z often adopts a just-in-time approach, focusing on completing tasks effectively rather than adhering strictly to start times. This perspective aligns with their rejection of hustle culture and the traditional 9-to-5 work model.

According to Calder, employers should recognise that this shift towards valuing outcomes over rigid schedules can be beneficial. She recounts a situation in which a café owner she knew fired a barista due to their persistent tardiness.

Despite understanding the principle behind the decision, she acknowledged its negative impact on the customer experience. The tardy barista was a customer favourite for his exceptional coffee-making skills and vibrant personality, contributing significantly to the café's atmosphere. Calder suggested that today's work landscape has significantly changed, and everyone has "a different relationship with time."

Understanding Time Perception and Inclusivity

It is essential to consider that Gen Z's relaxed attitude towards punctuality might also be linked to deeper issues such as attention deficit disorders, which affect time perception and management.

A young woman went viral last year after claiming she was labelled "entitled" for asking a "very reasonable" question about time blindness during an interview. Sarah Trefren ignited a heated debate when she took to TikTok, tearfully recounting how she was "yelled at" for inquiring about accommodations for "time blindness" during a phone interview for a trade school application.

"The person I was with interrupted, misinterpreted my question, and when the interview ended, they started yelling at me," Trefren said in the video. "They told me accommodations for time blindness don't exist and that if I struggle with punctuality, I will never be able to get a job."

Trefren's case highlighted how losing track of time or misjudging how long tasks will take is a genuine challenge for some individuals.

The Rise of "Lazy Girl" Jobs

Another notable trend championed by Gen Z is the "lazy girl" job phenomenon. Contrary to the name, these roles are not about being lazy. Instead, they emphasise finding work that offers a favourable work-life balance, lower stress levels, and sufficient pay without demanding excessive hours or an overwhelming workload.

"Lazy girl" jobs are often characterised by remote work opportunities, flexible schedules, and tasks that allow employees to avoid burnout. These positions prioritise mental health and personal well-being, reflecting Gen Z's broader rejection of the hustle culture that glorifies overwork.

Calder believes that employers should start considering the value of these positions within their organisations. Offering roles that align with the 'lazy girl' job ethos can attract top talent from Gen Z, improve job satisfaction, and reduce turnover rates.

Moving Forward: Embracing Flexibility

Should employers adapt to these evolving work habits by focusing on results rather than rigid schedule adherence? While this may not be feasible in large corporate setups where employee compensation is measured through time rendered, it could benefit hybrid setups where some employees work from home on certain days. This setup involves creating a culture of mutual respect and understanding.

Strategies such as setting clear performance expectations, providing flexibility in work hours, and implementing remote work policies can help balance the need for punctuality with the desire for work-life balance. When these strategies are balanced with clear expectations and accountability, a flexible approach to punctuality can enhance overall productivity and job satisfaction.