From gen Z farming to pro-hybrid work, here are 3 ways the younger generation will impact 2024

By Emma O'Regan-Reidy

Updated Jan 5, 2024 at 03:22 PM

Reading time: 4 minutes

Looking back at 2023, you’ll probably think of personal achievements and changes, as well as viral moments. Think George Santos’ long list of c*nty moments, the OceanGate submersible, TikTok’s countless girl aesthetics and, how could you forget, Barbenheimer. But you may not consider the social, economic and cultural shifts that gained traction over the past 12 months.

With an impending US election season ahead as well as the usual suspects like climate change and the mental health crisis still in full swing, the upcoming year may seem daunting—but that isn’t all there is to it. To better picture what the year ahead might look like, let’s dive into three overarching trends you can expect to pick up speed among gen Z in 2024.

Trend 1: Reimagining tech

Remember late 2021, when everyone was talking about the metaverse after Mark Zuckerberg rebranded his company? Or maybe November 2022, when ChatGPT launched to the public? The past few years have seen large shifts in ideas about the internet as we enter the next stage of digital evolution: Web 3.0.

Forbes defines the phase as a decentralised, “more democratic version of today’s online world. It’s centred around the idea of ownership, removing control from the dominant big data companies and other central authorities and handing it to the masses.” Current examples of this include NFTs, blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, to name a few.

While these terms are now widely recognised by those outside of Silicon Valley, the actual features still aren’t used widely on a daily basis. However, that’s gradually changing—especially as AI has entered the picture in a big way this year, and it’s on course to continue. Apart from ChatGPT, you’ve probably noticed AI becoming more present in your online experiences throughout the year, like Spotify’s AI DJ feature, for example.

Michele Goetz, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, believes 2024 will usher “in a new era of intentional AI, where gimmicks and technical experimentation of genAI [generative AI] give way to more focused and strategic initiatives.” As a result, Forrester predicts that in the next year, 60 per cent of workers will use AI for their jobs and 85 per cent of enterprises will expand AI with open-source models. In short, expect the bring-your-own-AI (BYOAI) landscape to continue to grow at a rapid pace—which may pose issues to organisations attempting to regulate it.

Trend 2: Reworking work

According to the United States Department of Labor, gen Z is projected to make up 23 per cent of the workforce by 2024. Similarly in the UK, by 2025, 27 per cent of the workforce is expected to be those born from 1997 to 2012, states Pareto.

So, what does that mean for the near future of work

The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, had a substantial impact on how young people view and value work. However, now that the pandemic is largely behind us, it’s becoming less common for employees to work entirely from home, with more and more companies moving towards a hybrid work schedule.

AT&T Business reports that 2024 will show a dramatic decline in remote work. For example, in 2021 56 per cent of the workforce was remote, compared to 2024 where 19 per cent are projected to be remote. Conversely, the report states that “the hybrid model is expected to grow from 42 per cent (2021) to 81 per cent (2024).” It’s no surprise that gen Z is in support of hybrid work, given that many of their formative years in school and college were disrupted by the pandemic and defined by social distancing and lockdown mandates.

Apart from 9 to 5 jobs, side hustles are still going strong, particularly among gen X and gen Z. It shouldn’t come as a shock that many young people rely on multiple work streams for their monthly income—especially as the cost of living crisis soars. 

2023 saw its fair share of workplace trends from gen Z—such as #lazygirljob or moonlighting (aka working two or more remote jobs)—which reimagined what the 2010s’ hustle or girlboss culture might look like in the 2020s. As we move into 2024, expect the sentiment behind these movements to stay, even if their names on social media might change.

All in all, as gen Z enters the workforce, they’ll continue to rethink their relationships with labour, hierarchy and previous ideas of work. This may result in a push towards reimagined ways of working, such as a four-day week. But, in the meantime, expect polyworking to continue as the cost of living crisis, unfortunately, remains a key issue.

Trend 3: Rethinking growth

Compared to previous generations, gen Z is more comfortable thinking of alternative, non-linear solutions to widespread issues, namely the climate crisis. As the think tank Soon Futures puts it: “The growth imperative is under a critical review, as discerning gen Z challenges (and blames) the current economic system for its harmful impact on the environment.”

Rather than accepting capitalism as the given system, young people tend to be more open to exploring other options, posing collective rather than just individual ideas. One example of this could be the meatless majority. This year, Statista published a study showing that 43 per cent of gen Z in the UK planned to not eat meat in 2023. Agreeing with this, Yelena Wheeler, a clinical registered dietitian, predicts that young people will continue to adopt “plant-based diets, driven by factors such as sustainability, environmental concerns and cost considerations.”

What’s more, gen Z have also become fascinated with farming and the role it will play in the near future. In 2022, the Census of Agriculture found that the amount of farmers in the US who are under 35 has risen by 11 per cent. This growth is echoed by trending terms such as “gen Z farmer” and “gen Z farming” on TikTok, the likes of which have over 30 million views. Despite this, Bloomberg says that many gen Z farmers entering the field will never have to touch dirt, thanks to technological innovations like vertical farms in city centres.

While localised farming is a crucial element in solving the climate crisis, we’re still a way off from a TikTok trend turning into reality. Amanda Little, Bloomberg opinion columnist, notes that for the future of farming to come to fruition, policymakers “must make it clear to young recruits that they are committed to diversifying demographically, growing sustainably, bridging traditional and high-tech practices, and building a workforce with a great range of skill sets.”

Ultimately, those four key points can be applied to any of the overarching trends above as gen Z pushes the norms and continues to come of age in 2024.

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