Younger workers careers suffer in lockdown, but are hopeful of better future

In the face of unprecedented health and economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘millennials’ and ‘Gen Zs’ express resolve and a vision to build a better future, a new Deloitte survey claims. The 2020 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey, now in its ninth year, suggests that both generations remain resilient in the face of adversity and are determined to drive positive change in their communities and around the world.

This year’s survey consists of two parts: a “primary” survey of 18,426 younger people across 43 countries conducted between November 2019 and early January 2020, and a “pulse” survey of 9,102 individuals over 13 countries taken between April and May of 2020 in the midst of the worldwide pandemic. Many questions from the first study were repeated to gauge the effect of the pandemic on opinions.

The report claims that the consequences of the pandemic have drastically affected the careers of young workers. At the time of polling, almost 30 percent of Gen Zs and nearly a quarter of younger millennials (25-30 years old) said they had either lost their jobs or been placed on temporary, unpaid leave. Only a third of millennials and 38 percent of Gen Zs taking the pulse survey said their employment and income status had been unaffected.

The picture that emerges from this year’s survey is complicated but hopeful: Even in the midst of crisis, younger people are recommitting to improving society, pushing for a world in which businesses and governments mirror their own commitments.


Mental health

Prior to the pandemic, 52 percent of Gen Zs and 50 percent of millennials in the 13 countries that were surveyed twice said they were stressed all or most of the time. Respondents cited family welfare, long-term finances, and job prospects as primary sources of stress. Interestingly, stress levels fell eight points for both generations in the second survey, possibly indicating that the slowdown of life in lockdown may have reduced stress levels. This is backed by a recent Deloitte UK study of over 2,000 UK workers, which found that 48 percent of employed and self-employed Londoners say the lockdown has had a positive or very positive impact on their wellbeing.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Flexible working arrangements—which were widely implemented as a result of the pandemic—may present one solution to stress[/perfectpullquote]

Despite the slight declines seen in the pulse survey, stress and mental wellness remain critical issues for young generations and these issues are manifested in work settings. Approximately one-third of younger people took time off work due to stress before the pandemic, though around half told their employers it was for a different reason. Encouragingly, flexible working arrangements—which were widely implemented as a result of the pandemic—may present one solution. Sixty-nine percent of millennials and 64 percent of Gen Zs agreed having the option to work from home in the future would relieve stress.

Financial concerns are a particularly acute stressor for millennials, many of whom began their careers in the wake of the Great Recession and now face another downturn. In the primary survey, more millennials (50 percent) believed their financial situations will worsen or stagnate in the next year than improve (42 percent).

When analyzing results from only the 13 countries included in the pulse survey, 61 percent of millennial respondents conveyed the same lack of optimism during the pandemic, a seven percentage-point jump from the primary survey. Still, there is some short-term optimism as more than half of millennials in the pulse survey, and nearly half of Gen Zs, say they have savings of roughly three months of income, which may help them as the financial ramifications of the pandemic come to bear.


A better world

Younger generations take the issue of social purpose as a personal calling. In the pulse survey, respondents indicated they were taking “socially conscious” actions to benefit the planet and society. The COVID-19 crisis may have reinforced these inclinations, as nearly three-fourths said the pandemic has made them more sympathetic to the needs of others, and that they will take action to positively impact their communities.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Younger people’ focus on doing good is reflected in their purchasing habits[/perfectpullquote]

Younger people’ focus on doing good is reflected in their purchasing habits as well. About 60 percent said they plan to buy more products and services from large businesses that have taken care of their workforces and positively impacted society during the pandemic. Around three-quarters will make an extra effort to buy products and services from smaller, local businesses.

Once again, climate change emerged as a critical issue for younger people both before and during the COVID-19 crisis. Prior to the pandemic, half of respondents said they believe it too late to repair the damage caused by climate change and only 40 percent expressed optimism that future efforts to protect the environment will succeed. However, four months later in the 13 pulse survey countries, the percentage of millennials believing we’ve reached the point of no return dropped by eight points, perhaps suggesting that the environmental impact of reduced activity during the pandemic has given hope that there’s still time to act.

A vast majority (80 percent) also think governments and businesses need to make greater efforts to protect the environment, yet they are concerned that the economic impact of the pandemic might make this less of a priority.


Attitudes to business

The view of business in general around the world continues to wane. In the primary survey, 51 percent of millennials said business is a force for good, down from 76 percent three years ago and 55 percent in 2019. In the pulse survey, these numbers continued to decline to 41 percent for millennials and 43 percent for Gen Zs (Gen Zs reported 52 percent favorability in the primary survey).

However—whether employers are finally starting to better meet workers’ needs, or millennials were feeling the need to find stability even before the pandemic—for the first time since asking the question four years ago, more millennials in the primary survey said they want to stay with their employers for five or more years than leave within two years. Those who would leave in two years or less dropped from 49 percent to 31 percent, while those who’d prefer to stay long-term jumped from 28 percent to 35 percent. Gen Zs remain more interested in moving, but only half said they’d like to change jobs within two years, down from 61 percent last year.

Respondents were also largely receptive to how employers were navigating the COVID-19 crisis—two-thirds said they were pleased with the speed and manner by which employers acted. Around 60 percent believe these actions have made them want to stay with their employers for the long term.