Cottagecore & Gen Z: Lessons for the internal communicator

By Darian Mavandad
July 22, 2022
5 min read
Woman in the field embracing cottagecore

Cottagecore. A term first coined on Tumblr circa 2018, describing a lifestyle that embraces pre-industrial practices, such as growing your own food, living off the grid, and rejecting capitalism and corporate job culture. The term largely flew under the radar until March of 2020, when the entire world began to embrace escapism, and Gen Z picked up the aesthetic on TikTok.

At the surface level, cottagecore seems to be a wholly, and ironically, materialistic pursuit of a simple aesthetic (clay dutch ovens, lace dresses, and koko loko roses); however, at its root, it taps into a reaction against both communications and the increasing amount of time we spend attached to our screens. As it branched out in popularity, it also began to incorporate more health and wellness awareness, including things such as clean eating, locavore movements, and ecological consciousness. Eventually, it became popular enough that the New York Times covered it, a few days before a worldwide lockdown and the total blossoming of the movement across social media.

But what does this movement, embraced by a generation that is now rapidly entering a very labour friendly job-market, mean to you as internal communicator? Let’s take a look at three things to learn from the cottagecore movement and how it may affect your organization.

1. The cottagecore movement goes hand-in-hand with digital nomadism and remote work

Woman embracing cottagecore aesthetic by reading during a picnic.

IC has explored the impact of digital nomadism in prior blogs, but the cottagecore movement reminds us that more and more young workers expect an unprecedented amount of flexibility in their working arrangements. While WFH was commonplace during the pandemic years, more and more people are now able and itching to travel, and bring their work along with them. In some cases, they expect to enjoy a pseudo-cottagecore-capitalist lifestyle forevermore, with real estate trends that show a high number of urban workers ditching their rents in HCOL cities and moving to houses and cabins in more isolated areas of the country with historically lower costs of living. In the Bay Area, workers fled from San Francisco to Tahoe, buying up cottages and cabins deep in the woods.

This means that your internal comms should be able to engage and work for employees who will rarely be seen in the office, if at all. We know that employee engagement is crucial to keeping turnover low and keeping workers productive, but building those emotional connections with employees that are only accessible through Teams and Zoom is another barrier.

One way to combat this is Push messaging. Younger generations, especially, have taken to view SMS/Snapchat/and other push communications as a serious way of relationship building—with many friendships and romantic relationships being formed over these channels during the past two years, no in-person interaction required. It’s time to begin to incorporate this new-found emotional communications concept into your internal comms plan, and begin using software that integrates with your other channels to make push communications simple, intuitive, and engaging. Your organization’s hiring, productivity, and retainment rely on it.

2. Screen-off time is increasingly important


Work-life balance is a term that seems to have infinite traction. What started as a differentiator between companies is now the expected norm for jobseekers, especially young ones. While the full rejection of work, as cottagecore promotes, is wholly impossible for most, work-life balance is the more realistic key tenet of an achievable cottagecore lifestyle.

Your employees expect appreciation and regard for work-life balance, and that needs to be reflected in your internal comms and the tone you set for the organization—after all, much like how marketing is the voice of your organization for external stakeholders, internal comms is the voice of your organization for internal people.

Do not send out non-urgent communications after 5PM or expect people to respond to a survey you send out at 4:30PM on a Friday until the next Monday. Moreover, ensure that your internal comms features mental health check-ins for employees, and that your single source of truth has access to resources that will help workers balance their workloads and their home lives. These may be small initiatives, but they go a long way in creating the emotional tone that a company portrays to its employees, and ultimately impact your organization’s bottom line in terms of turnover and hiring.

3. Community building is at the heart of the cottagecore movement, and it should be the heart of your internal comms plan too!

Yes, your internal comms should first and foremost serve to inform employees within your organization. However, it should also be a tool that you can use to build a stronger and more inclusive community both within the organization and between employees.  What we can observe from the rise of cottagecore culture is that people are longing for a more simple approach to all facets of life, including the way we interact with each other. Schedule time to enjoy the great outdoors as a team, or have a beach picnic, or even take a sourdough starter course!

While these things may seem frivolous, they have been proven to increase employee retainment and motivated workers to be more productive and customer focused. After all, all work and no play makes Jack… unproductive!

Bring a bit of the cottage into the core of your internal comms

Phone, laptop, and roses represent the merging of comms and cottagecore.

While many facets of cottagecore are unattainable, especially in a work environment, it is not solely just an internet trend. It speaks to the psyche of the younger generation, a generation more and more important to organizations, and their desire to embrace a simple life, with clear communication, a balance of work and play, and a sense of belonging and community.

Contrast that with a generation that relies more on online messaging than ever, and you’ve got the sparks for a truly great internal comms strategy. Ready to turn those sparks into a fire? Book a no-obligation demo with Intranet Connections!

By Darian Mavandad

Darian has a degree from McGill University, and joined IC to empower internal communicators by creating content that inspires. In his free time, he loves traveling, reading, and skiing.