Gen Z intern shocks recruiter with list of demands including working no more than 5 hours, a start-up culture and an above average salary

Career experts said that work-life balance shouldn't come at the cost of the workday.
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Everyone has a list of wishes for their next job—perhaps it’s a generous pay packet, a more senior title or unlimited vacation days. For Gen Z, it’s apparently working for less than five hours a day.

One recruiter was left so shocked after interviewing a young job seeker who said he was looking for work-life balance (which tips heavily on the side of life) that she wrote about her experience on Twitter.

“I was interviewing a Gen Z intern today and he says he is looking for work-life balance with not more than 5 hours of work. Doesn’t like the MNC [multinational corporation] culture so wants to work at a start-up,” wrote India-based Sameera Khan, a director of people success at InFeedo, an employee-experience platform. 

Khan also stipulated that the job seeker wanted to be paid around 50,000 Indian rupees for his brief time on the job. At around $600 that might not sound like much, but it’s more than eight times the average monthly salary for an Indian Gen Zer. According to Forbes, a 24-year-old should expect to earn around INR 5,905 a month.

Khan concluded: “God bless the future of work.”

It wasn’t long until the post went viral, racking up over 780,000 views and sparking fierce debate about Gen Z’s attitude to work. 

Many were quick to call his list of demands unrealistic, given his lack of experience: “He needs to work 100 hours a week for 5 years and get to a senior position in big tech. Then he can get 40-50 lakhs with less work than that,” one user commented. 

Others disagreed, praising the youngest generation to enter the workforce for prioritizing work-life balance. 

“This hustle culture started with baby boomers and got passed on to millennials. Thanks to Gen Z, they understand life is not all about working for someone else,” another user wrote.

The cost of work-life balance shouldn’t be the working day

Khan commented on her post to add her take on the debate. 

“Prioritising work-life balance early on is great but while looking for the first few internships one should look for learning, growth, good projects and peers,” she wrote. “Balance gets struck eventually.”

“If you want to do well in life, you’ve got to work hard to get there,” echoed Lewis Maleh, CEO of the global executive recruitment agency Bentley Lewis. What’s more, he doesn’t see why balance and wellness should come at the cost of working hours.

“I think you can work hard and have a really successful career, and also take care of yourself—they’re not mutually exclusive,” he told Fortune. “For me integrating your work and life is making sure that you’re working on yourself—I go to the gym six days a week, I eat well and I try to sleep well—and working hard.” 

Work-life balance should be an integrated approach, not as Maleh puts it, “trying to get away with working less”.

Job seeker doesn’t reflect the attitudes of all Gen Z workers

There’s seemingly a tale of two worlds when it comes to Gen Z workers: Those who are posting their 5 a.m. morning routines on TikTok and holding down multiple jobs. And others who are embracing “lazy girl jobs”, calling out capitalism for the toll it takes on their mental health, and walking out on jobs that don’t conform to their expectations.

The difference between the divided cohort is “privilege”, Maleh said, while adding that he sees hard-working Gen Zers get a bad rep because of the occasional unrealistic worker. 

“I know a lot of younger folks that are working their ass off,” he insisted. “That gets derailed by people who are saying, I’m going to do five hours work and get paid a million pounds.”

“To engage Gen Z  team members, we need to eliminate the false belief that they all want to work less hours,” echoed Monica McCoy, CEO and founder of the global consultancy Monica Motivates.

She told Fortune that gimmick generational group nicknames, buzzwords and judging an entire group of workers based on the Gen Z intern’s viral list of demands do more harm than good. 

“It can lead to biases, misunderstanding, and a real lack of insight into what influences the thinking and behavior of members of various generations,” she added. “All generations challenge the one that came before them—and all generations tend to be skeptical about the one that follows.” 

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