Higher stress and less work engagement among young adults

Photo by Ron Lach

Young people around the world have relished newfound workplace freedoms, but new research by Cigna International reveals the move towards flexible and remote work risks hurting their mental well-being and professional development, with many now seeking new jobs.

The health service provider’s latest 360 Global Well-Being Survey, titled Exhausted by Work – The Employer Opportunity, shows that while hybrid and flexible work is seen as very important amongst younger workers, they are also experiencing worrying levels of burnout and concern for the future.

Over 97% of 18-34-year-olds are burned out, and 40% are worried by the rising costs of living. 

Despite over three-quarters of younger respondents saying they are ‘always on’ with work, many are actually struggling to engage with their work and feel it has become purely transactional with no in-person interaction. 

A fifth (20%) say a lack of learning and development opportunities is also causing stress. 

Now, with over 70% saying they are re-evaluating their life priorities and nearly half looking for new jobs, employers must urgently recognize the need for action.

Michelle Leung, HR Officer, Cigna International Markets, said the findings should ring alarm bells for employers everywhere.

“Business leaders must not become complacent in this new flexible workplace era. Remote work shouldn’t mean less opportunity, growth or sense of belonging for younger people,” said Leung.

“If we are not careful, this could quickly escalate into a generational divide – those who built lasting professional careers during the years of traditional onsite work, and those who were disenfranchised during the remote transition – the, so called, Great Resignation and the Quiet Quitting phenomena.”

“The workplace is fundamentally changed. More than ever, bosses and managers need to tune into employee needs if they want to retain good staff. They need to invest more time and consideration to help employees grow, get satisfaction from their jobs and to perform at their best,” said Leung.

Failure to respond to these issues could mean a significant loss of talent. Up to 73% of 25–34-year-old Millennials and 71% of 18–24-year-old Gen Zs are spending more time evaluating their priorities compared to two years ago.  

Worryingly, Cigna’s research shows 48% of 18-34-year-olds are now looking for new roles at a time when much of the world is entering uncertain economic times.   

“All over the world, the younger generation has been most impacted by the changes in workplace culture,” said Jason Sadler, President, Cigna International Markets.

“While they welcome the move to flexible working models, they need support to adapt to the new work culture. Employers need to ensure all employees, especially younger staff members, have the opportunities to develop and grow in their careers.

“They also need to be careful that ‘out of sight’ isn’t ‘out of mind’, and that Whole Health and well-being forms a central pillar of their business and workplace strategy.”