Younger employees are having the worst time at work, according to new research.

The study out of Massey University’s School of Management measured work and wellbeing outcomes over a range of ages and found that workers aged 35 and under scored the worst across almost all of them.

The younger demographic showed the highest levels of job stress, job anxiety and job depression.

The results were concerning, researcher Dr Zoë Port said.

“We’re seeing the youngest in our workforce experiencing the lowest job satisfaction and work-life balance, which has a knock-on effect, as they are the leading group reporting the highest turnover intentions and job mobility,” she said.

Port said the data highlighted an age disadvantage at work, which could be due to younger staff not having as much work experience or resources, meaning less support and fewer ways of coping.

“It could also reflect the uniquely challenging context that today’s younger generations are inheriting,” she said. 

The only outcome younger workers didn’t score the worst for was job mobility - the perception of available opportunities.

“This may … reflect what we’re hearing about different generational attitudes to work, with younger generations feeling less bound to staying with one organisation for a long period of time – something older generations have placed importance on,” Port said. 

Older workers are the happiest

Data for the study was collected from 709 New Zealand employees across a range of careers and industries that represented the overall workforce in terms of age, gender and geographic location.

The age group that showed the highest levels of positive workplace wellbeing were workers aged 51 and over. 

Wellbeing and positive work environments are important for all age groups, Port said, adding that the new research could give workplaces insight into the issues faced by their younger workers. 

“Employers should be mindful that younger workers appear to be more vulnerable to poorer wellbeing in the workplace and have shown to be in need of additional support in this area,” she said.

“As this cohort also appear to be more willing to leave for opportunities elsewhere, organisations should be taking a good look at what they have available to retain younger workers in an ageing workforce.”

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