In partnership with


Sifted Talks

February 8, 2024

Gen Z is writing a new script for work: Here’s how to read it

Startup operators and investors share advice for engaging digital natives

Sophie Rowe

3 min read

Gen Z is the first generation of digital natives and their influence is expanding. Experts predict that they will make up 27% of the workforce by 2025. 

They’re writing a new script for work: “they expect hybrid work, value work-life balance and have an increased emphasis on mental health,” says Robbie O’Connor, general manager for EMEA at connected workspace app Notion. 

So how can startups get up to speed with digital nomads? What value does young talent bring to scaling companies? 


In our latest Sifted Talks, we asked startup operators and investors to share their take. Our panel featured: 

  • Robbie O’Connor, GM EMEA at connected workspace app Notion — he was previously head of EMEA sales at SaaS startups Asana and Dropbox
  • Paula Garcia Domingo, partner at VC fund Index Ventures — she previously held strategy roles at Snapchat and Deliveroo 
  • Siobhan O'Reilly, VP sales and regional manager EMEA at design software Figma 
  • Ashley Firth, global director of engineering at energy supplier Octopus Energy 

Here’s what we learned: 

1/ Adopt async communication — but don’t let it bleed into your downtime

Asynchronous conversations are great for cutting down on meetings, but startups should set clear boundaries so staff can switch off. 

“There's nothing worse than your manager appearing in your Slack on a Sunday...schedule those messages to arrive later,” says Firth. 

Gen Z has a sense of urgency and immediacy… I'll treat a Slack with the same importance as a project that I need to deliver in the next 24 hours — Paula Garcia Domingo, partner, Index Ventures

2/ Be flexible

Working 9 to 5 in an office was industry standard… until the pandemic paused the big head office era. 

Now, much of Gen Z has never experienced a workplace that isn’t flexible. According to McKinsey research, they are 59% more likely to walk away from companies that don’t provide hybrid or remote options. 

“The ideal state is to empower people to do their best work, without having to dictate that they need to be at a desk or particular space,” notes O’Reilly.

Flexible working doesn’t just attract young workers; parents can also get more done.

Many workers can get the work they need to done in the time period and don't need hard boundaries — Robbie O’Connor, GM EMEA, Notion 

3/ Prioritise personal development 

Don’t dump young workers with the tasks no one wants to do… create opportunities for personal development.

One approach is to design a coaching plan, so they can put new skills into practice. “We mirror how university operates… but allow the subject matter to be more open ended, free flowing and let people take it in the direction they want,” says Firth.

Gen Z appreciate feeling seen for their strengths, but also for their weaknesses. Think about how you can assign projects that provide personal development — Paula Garcia Domingo, Partner, Index Ventures

4/ Trust the tech savvy with the tech stack 

Young workers should be encouraged to try and test new tools — and entrusted to support senior leadership with updating the tech stack.

“Gen Z should feel empowered to scale those ways of working,” said Domingo. 

Gen Z are change champions: they will push for the tools and processes that allow them to work at their best — Siobhan O'Reilly, VP sales and regional manager EMEA, Figma 

5/ Solidify your AI strategy 

Despite anxieties about job cuts, Gen Z are largely advocates of AI. 78% of young Europeans have a positive outlook on the impact AI will have on their role. 


Implementing AI can enable startups to achieve productivity gains. “We see AI as a way of helping us get more done in our day-to-day: either augmenting or supplementing thinking,” says O’Connor. 

People are worried about interaction-based work being eaten up first by AI… we've been exploring AI as a way to enhance, and not replace, these jobs — Ashley Firth, global director of engineering, Octopus Energy 

Like this and want more? Watch the full Sifted Talks here:

Sophie Rowe

Sophie Rowe is an events producer at Sifted, working on our in-person Sessions and flagship Summit. Connect with her on LinkedIn