Majority of Gen Z employees want to go freelance

37% of 16-25 year olds in the UK want to start their own business, citing flexible working as a top priority. How can employers win them back?

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young
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The majority of Generation Z are choosing to shun traditional 9-5 employment in favour of flexible working hours, new research shows.

71% of 16-25 year olds said they are planning to, or already do, work as a freelancer, in a survey conducted by Fiverr, with 36% stating that their ultimate career goal is to be their own boss.

Out of 2,000 Gen Z respondents from the UK, 35% said that they believed that freelancing will increase their income. 67% also said that they considered freelancing a successful and fulfilling career.

More people switching from employee to self-employed provides a decent stimulus for the economy. But with workforce participation in the UK already much-diminished, the trend could spell danger for employers already struggling to hire for full-time roles.

We explore the research further to ask what other work preferences Gen Z are searching for, and how employers can attract new talent by meeting their demands halfway.

Gen Z is re-writing the office rulebook

We’ve written previously about the generational divide between older office workers, and the emerging Gen Z.

As the first group to enter the workforce post-pandemic, this age bracket seems to display a more relaxed attitude when it comes to office dress code. They also have higher expectations on salary progression.

Now, it seems Gen Z are also bringing a ‘be your own boss’ approach to the workplace, with the majority seeking to eventually become a sole trader or else take on a more ad-hoc freelancer working style.

Recent ONS figures show that self-employed workers are much more likely to work from home as a way to choose their own working schedule. They can also avoid spending more money on things like commuting and office lunches.

Younger generations want hybrid, not remote, work

In 2021, many business leaders expressed concerns that the office might become a ghost town as a result of remote working during the pandemic.

However, according to Fiverr’s research this is not the case. Only 24% of 16-25 year olds identified a remote work policy as a factor when choosing a job.

Instead, 44% say they want flexible working hours, indicating that the next generation of workers still recognise the benefits of an office environment.

Physical interaction at work is especially advantageous for young people. Conversing with older colleagues is an effective method for knowledge-sharing – crucial for an individual’s learning and development. It can also build meaningful relationships across the company.

Indeed, after flexible working, the other top priorities for Gen Z employees are a positive and friendly work culture (35%), and the ability to build skills (34%).

This feedback is backed up by a recent report that shows Gen Z are leading the charge back to in-person working. 54% say they want to work four or five days a week in the office, as a way to still socialise without spending money during the cost of living crisis.

Why is it important to attract and retain Gen Z employees?

Hiring freelancers is a good short-term solution to the talent shortage. But they typically only work for shorter stretches of time, leading to high staff turnover that can also scupper company culture.

Instead, companies should embrace the shift towards more flexible operations. Employers can meet the new demands of younger staff members by adopting a hybrid work policy.

Doing so will enable hiring managers to build a more attractive benefits package and work environment for full-time Gen Z workers.

For SMEs, bringing younger talent onboard will be key to combating the current hiring crisis. They are considered the newbies today, but in just two years time, Zoomers will constitute 27% of the workforce.

Here are three other big benefits to hiring Generation Z workers:

  • They’ll help bridge the skills gap. Gen Z will be the UK’s most qualified generation. 80% have higher education qualifications, compared to 15% of Boomers. This will no doubt prove key to plugging the skills gap in years to come.
  • They’re attuned to new ways of working. Coming of working age post-COVID means Gen Z are well up-to-speed with hybrid working, with 75% saying they prefer it to full-time office working patterns.
  • They are digital natives. This age group has grown up with the internet in all its glory. As global connectivity soars, Gen Z employees can help firms keep up with technological advances.
Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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