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The workers who want it all...

What you need to know:

  • Statistics from The Great Place to Work Insights show that Gen Z currently makes up 20 per cent of the workforce, a number that's neck-and-neck with the millennials, who are at 22 per cent.
  • In the next 10 years, this number is expected to swell to a whopping 65 per cent.
  • These individuals who were born in the late 1990s and early 2000s are already influencing and changing many workplace trends, and this is only set to intensify in the years to come.

Hours of screen time, doom scrolling on social media, chatting with friends. This is the lifestyle that most people associate Gen Zs with. What those people may not know is that the current generation is now entering the job market to find a rapidly transforming work environment.

History informs us that whenever a new generation of workers enters the job market, they bring along a unique set of qualities, and come with varying expectations. For example, when searching for employment, Baby Boomers sought job security, Generation X sought both stability and professional progress. Now, millennials and Generation-Z are looking for a healthy balance between their personal lives, and the work they do.

Statistics from The Great Place to Work Insights show that Gen Z currently makes up 20 per cent of the workforce, a number that's neck-and-neck with the millennials, who are at 22 per cent. In the next 10 years, this number is expected to swell to a whopping 65 per cent. These individuals who were born in the late 1990s and early 2000s are already influencing and changing many workplace trends, and this is only set to intensify in the years to come.

While some view work-life balance as having a work schedule that allows them to spend time with their family or raise their children, it is important to note that it encompasses all aspects of life. Achieving a good work-life balance means finding a way to prioritise and manage the demands of both personal and professional responsibilities in a way that allows for a fulfilling and satisfying life.

As the workforce continues to evolve, there's a growing need to understand the shift in work ethic and perception among the younger generations, particularly Gen Zs.

We spoke to four Gen Zs in a bid to understand their view of a successful work-life balance, and to find out how they manage the complexities of pursuing excellence at work without neglecting the various components of their personal lives.

Photo credit: Pool

Brian Khavalaji, 25, Marketing Associate at Reactionpower
In my quest to achieve a harmonious equilibrium between my professional commitments and personal aspirations, I have adopted a strategy that requires me to work diligently during weekdays, and allows me the luxury to rest during weekends and use those two days for social engagement and personal growth.

Luckily, my employer has allowed me to work remotely. This arrangement allows me to structure my work in a way that suits my lifestyle. I often find myself completing the bulk of my tasks whenever I have the time, regardless of whether it's early morning or late at night. This enables me to tackle any personal matters that may arise at any time without compromising on my work responsibilities.

One of the aspects I truly appreciate about my employer is their insistence on prioritising health. Our office culture places importance on our well-being. Our boss always says, "Your health comes before anything else."

As a result, whenever I experience fatigue or require some kind of support, I can easily access the resources and assistance I need to get back to optimal physical and mental shape. Naturally, this commitment to maintaining good health elevates my productivity levels.

Working remotely has also afforded me the luxury of pursuing other interests and ventures outside of my primary job. Thanks to the generous compensation we receive, I am able to solely focus on my work without having to juggle multiple roles or side hustles that could distract me.

This financial stability allows me to comfortably manage my bills and live a fulfilling and comfortable life – something that I take great pride in. On top of that, dedicating my time and energy to one job has enabled me become a master of my craft.

I understand the importance of taking breaks from work, and I don’t mean only sick leaves. Writing can be a demanding job, particularly when it is a daily endeavor. To combat burnout, I make it a point to request time off to relax and rejuvenate whenever I need it. During my periods of rest, I engage in personal reflection, socialise with loved ones, and strategise not only about my work, but also about other aspects of my personal life. 

Furthermore, I have a deep passion for arts and entertainment events. When I am not engrossed in writing, you will find me either organising or attending various events around Nairobi's vibrant entertainment scene. This serves as both a source of inspiration, and a means of connecting with like-minded individuals who love creativity.

All in all, finding a work-life balance is of paramount importance to me. With the flexibility afforded by remote work, the support and focus on health from my employer, and the ability to pursue personal interests, my life feels harmonised and fulfilling. By strategically managing my time and prioritising self-care, I am able to thrive both professionally and personally, creating a well-rounded and gratifying lifestyle.

Photo credit: Pool

Joyce Ngari, 23
Assistant General Manager at Treasure Movers

As a 23-year-old communication practitioner, securing an internship in the city was a dream come true for me. But, the struggles of maintaining a healthy balance between work and social life was a challenge I was not prepared for. Staying focused and eliminating emotional attachments to focus on career and personal goals was difficult for me and often led to mental breakdowns.

Trying to survive in these tough economic times with a limited stipend while also learning the culture and ethics of my organisation, all while diligently performing my duties, was daunting. I even had to limit my screen time since most of my duties were physical, and I had little time for my online community.

I noticed the distance between me and my circle of friends grow, since I spent most of my time learning new skills and trying to learn as much as possible from seasoned experts before my contract expired. Within no time, I had lost almost all my long-term friends and was on a lonely journey.

This took a toll on my mental well-being and I began losing weight. I had not mastered the art of balancing personal life and work, so I spent more time thinking about how to excel instead of engaging in self-care.

Towards the end of the internship period, I focused on understanding what I could do to achieve a harmonious balance between professional duties and personal well-being. I scoured online and found at least three strategies whose success rate was guaranteed.

At my new work place, I adopted the tactics to avoid scenarios of burnout and mental health challenges. Although I am struggling with some anxieties, my greatest motivation is that I'm passionate about what I do.

I’m also a firm believer that Gen Zs should use technology wisely and think beyond what the internet offers. Signing up for physical discussions or training programmes around the work place especially can be beneficial. Seeking knowledge or advice from social media content, which can be misleading and harmful, may not always be a good idea. 

Another sustainable strategy for maintaining a healthy work-life balance is seeking the guidance of a therapist who can help you make informed decisions, monitor your mental health status, enlighten you on effective stress management techniques, and promote self-discovery.

Through my internship, I learnt that proper self-care contributes to improved focus, clarity, and overall productivity.

Photo credit: Pool

Joshua Muthui, 22
Public Relations practitioner

As a victim of the nine to five system that dominates the lives of many workers in Nairobi, I find myself torn between the demands of my job and my passion for art and creativity. I am a newbie in the job market, but I am also a writing and performing poet, author of a poetry anthology, and a podcaster. My love for art and creativity is something I cannot ignore, even as I navigate the daily grind of work.

Balancing my "perfect" work-life and showbiz is no easy feat. It requires determination and discipline. To manage my responsibilities, I have developed a daily routine that enables me to show up at work and also take care of my personal life. I wake up at 5.30am, prepare myself, and board a matatu at 6am to town. From there, I catch the staff bus to work at 7am.

Maintaining a social life is also important to me. I have friends who help me hold it down. I reach out to them whenever I need fare during working days, as I don’t always have money for transport.

As a public relations officer, I find myself in a delicate balancing act between my career and my passion for poetry. Although it is quite a challenge, I am determined to make it work.

One of the difficulties I face is financial struggles. The rising cost of living in Nairobi has made it hard for me to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Although I am able to make ends meet, I have had to make a few sacrifices with regards to my basic needs.

I also struggle with conflicts of interest that normally arise due to my newness in the job market. I am still learning the ropes and on some occasions, I fail to meet the expectations of my employers. I have been able to resolve these issues through effective communication and understanding.

Time management is also a major challenge for me. I usually write my poems late at night, and this leaves me with little time to rest and recuperate. To make up for this, I try to attend hangouts and events on weekends to relax and recharge.

Despite these challenges, I have one principle that keeps me going – the belief that every day under the sun is a fight. I also live by the slogan "Jichoche," which means gassing yourself up.

Finding a balance between work and passion is an ongoing journey. It requires resilience, adaptability, and a strong support system. But for those of us who are married to art and creativity, it is a journey worth taking.

Photo credit: Pool

Raphael Mburia, 22
Intern at Free Press Publishers

As an intern, I must say that I wasn't fully prepared for the work and pressure that surrounds the quest for excellence. Mentally and physically, I was unprepared. Commuting from Kikuyu to Mombasa road, which is quite a distance, has now become the norm for me due to financial constraints. I am unable to live closer to my workplace due to high cost of rent, so I have to spend a good three hours of my day on a bus every day, which leaves me super exhausted.

Balancing my work and social life has been a challenge, and I haven't fully mastered it. When I get back to Kikuyu, I'm usually extremely tired, too exhausted to catch up with friends. I often end up collapsing in bed.

On weekends, I'm often church mouse broke, as most of my money is spent on bus fare. So I stay indoors. Sometimes, I feel like this is not how I want to spend my life, but what choice do I have? To combat the boredom, I sometimes call friends and family members.  I also go for long walks, which leave me feeling rejuvenated.

While my experience as an intern has been challenging, I know that I'm not alone in this. Many people have had to make sacrifices to pursue their careers, and sometimes it can be tough. For example, some people have had to give up their careers due to various reasons such as wanting to spend more time with family.

However, it's important to remember that these challenges are not permanent, and with time, things can get better.

Being an intern has been a learning experience for me. While it has been challenging, I know that it's a stepping stone towards achieving my career goals. I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow, and I'm hopeful that with time, I'll be able to strike a balance between my work and social life.