You'd think a digital native generation would want to work digitally, right? Think again.
I've studied generational dynamics at work for a decade with an emphasis on the emerging generations. Over that decade, Millennials and Gen Z have been consistent proponents of remote work considering their confidence and competence using digital tools. However, experienced generations (Gen Xers and Boomers) were not interested in exploring new ways of working and stood firm that workers were most productive in the office.
Then 2020 said, "Don't knock it until you try it."
Remote work was stressed tested and it didn't break. Millennials and Gen Z easily adapted leaning on their digital native-ness. Eventually experienced managers and leaders developed a whole new appreciation for the ease, effectiveness, and possibilities of remote work. The once anti-remote work decision-makers became pro-work from anywhere.
The generational tables turned. The experienced generations had reversed their stance of remote work. The emerging generations also reversed their stance. And instead of finally rejoicing that they now get to work the way they've always wanted to, they are now apprehensive about the new fully remote and hybrid work arrangements.
Laslo Bock, CEO at Humu, summarized this generational pivot well with this example, "The CTO of a 30,000-person consulting firm told me the pandemic has been great for senior partners who no longer have to travel the world and are moving to low-cost havens like Bermuda, but miserable for young associates who miss out on the coaching and apprenticeship of the 'before times.'"
One Gen Z student put it this way, “Remote work shouldn’t be a requirement for young people. Working remotely is less intense—which is great if you have a family or other competing responsibilities. But for workers around my age, it offers less opportunity to showcase work ethic and capabilities.”
The transition to remote work has been easier for established generations who have developed social capital in the organization or industry and have context around how the company functions. Emerging generations lack the social capital and context and may never gain these valuable assets in a remote or hybrid environment.
Virtual work isn't always the ideal option, especially for Gen Z. Many Gen Zers are concerned remote work will threaten the following...
For these reasons, Gen Z is interested in experiencing something beyond remote work.
This is how Gen Z ranked their feelings about how certain workplace trends would favorably impact their job:
Gen Z ranked four items higher than remote work. And three of the top four items are in-person activities.
Additionally, a whopping 40% of college students and recent graduates prefer fully in-person work, with only 19% wanting to work remotely. This runs in stark difference with older generations where just 12% of all office workers prefer fully in-person work. Additionally, 66% of Gen Z want in-person feedback from their managers, rather than receiving a written report or chatting over Zoom. And 71% of Gen Z say they miss interacting with their co-workers in-person compared to 61% of Millennials.
Don't let Gen Z's digital prowess fool you into thinking they want to execute all work virtually.
Gen Z is craving connection.
Contrary to popular belief, they aren't cyborgs and have the same need for human connection as Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials. Perhaps they have a greater need for connection, considering 73% of Gen Z report sometimes or always feeling alone—the highest level of any generation. While surveying a company for my new book, Connectable, 82% of their Gen Z employees said they experience loneliness at least weekly.
While returning fully back to the office might not be feasible or welcomed by all, fighting for ways Gen Z can cultivate more connection with their team, managers, and the organization is important.
Gen Z isn't interested in missing out on the socialization and connection with coworkers that are so vital when starting a career. Creating environments of connection and belonging could be the talent attraction and retention secret organizations everywhere are searching for.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ryan Jenkins, CSP® (Certified Speaking Professional)™, is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker, virtual trainer, and three-time published author. His latest book is Connectable: How Leaders Can Move Teams From Isolated to All In. For a decade, he has helped organizations optimize generational dynamics, lessen worker loneliness, and prepare for the future of work. He is also co-founder of LessLonely.com, the world’s first resource fully dedicated to reducing worker isolation and strengthening team connections. Ryan lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife, three children, and yellow Labrador. Learn more at RyanJenkins.com.
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