Recent headlines suggest there might not be a need for the digital-native and entrepreneurial-spirited Generation Z to work from the office at all. As a company with an average employee age of 30-35, many of which started with us as graduates themselves, we understand the value of the physical workplace. Not only for engagement and productivity purposes – but the important role it plays for a future generation of leaders. Here’s why…
A DECLINE IN OPPORTUNITY
Already making up 20% of the world’s population and set to become more than a quarter of the workforce by 2025, Gen Z’s were hard hit during the pandemic at a pivotal stage in life. With as much as three in five firms cancelling work experience placements in 2020, graduates, apprentices and work experience all struggled to get their foot in the door of real-world working environments with many missing out on the right skills or workplace-enabled qualifications as a result
Generation Z are the individuals injecting purpose-driven culture into companies. They have a wealth of native, digital knowledge and will bring to the table some of the most creative and innovative ideas yet. Whilst it comes as no surprise that employers ought to be doing everything they can to encourage their young employees to work from the office – benefitting from it begins with the very environment that you’re offering.
THE WORKPLACE UNLOCKS POTENTIAL
Young people thrive from face-to-face communication, support and the social aspect of being part of a team. They too are the ones most likely to benefit from work perks – the free coffee machine, team lunches, gym discounts or on-site facilities.
Benefits aside, office design has already evolved, and as a result, can provide the younger demographic with a place to learn, collaborate and be seen, meanwhile offering others a workplace experience to rival their homes and boost wellbeing. From in-house spin studios to fully catered restaurants, the workplace is beginning to resemble that of a destination, providing a central hub for employees and creating social communities in return – enough to tempt anyone, at any age, to want to work from.
The workplace also has the power to unlock potential that might not otherwise be as effective in a fully remote world. Personal development and creating a supporting culture, for example, is far easier when everyone’s together in one space. For Gen Z’s, observing and shadowing more senior colleagues is the type of vital informal learning that’s tougher to achieve virtually, yet key in developing skills and experience.
THE IMPORTANCE OF VALUES, PURPOSE & CULTURE
Culture affects how we feel and behave, how we connect and communicate, and how successful a business can be. Weekly company meetings can now be (seamlessly) held virtually, but it’ll never be the same as physically being in the room together. Cheering on your co-workers’ successes and celebrating company achievements together are just a couple of things key to nurturing mutual respect and building authentic friendships – the very foundations of strong team culture.
Purpose has, however, overtaken pay as top priority for young job seekers as a recent study showed that 49% of Gen Z’s would rather work for a purpose-driven company even if it meant a 20% lower salary on average. Even though that may be the case for some, organisations must be authentic, because true engagement begins when employees feel that their own values align with the companies.
This is arguably something even more important for Gen Z as one of the most driven generations for change. Whether that be tougher action on climate change, or inequality and injustice, they stand true to their beliefs and will seek to work for purpose and value-aligned employers with robust social and environmental strategies in place.
As the most likely of generations to encounter mental health problems, alongside millennials, they were the most likely to have experienced a decline in mental health and wellbeing since working from home during the pandemic. Furthermore, only 45% of Gen Z’s in a recent study reported that their mental health was very good or excellent.
Technology plays a huge role in this, as all generations continue to encounter a hyper-connected world, but even more so for Gen Z as it’s the only world that they know. With this in mind, employers have a growing responsibility to look after their people as the way in which we both live, and work, continues to evolve at speed.
Small ways to start can include investing in lifestyle benefits such as discounted gym memberships, mental health support, discounts with healthy food retailers, and most importantly, encourage a healthy work-life balance to avoid burnout.
Work now needs to be enriching enough to be part of a satisfying life – not the opposite.
It’s clear how much value Generation Z, and hot on their tail, Generation Alpha, can benefit from working in a physical environment – benefits equally as good for businesses as it can be for individuals. This is a generation that may not yet realise it, but have already rapidly evolved the workplace and rippled traditional ways of working in the process.
As a result, roles are becoming more curated and personalised to fit around the unique skill set of young workers far broader than traditional roles would require. This is, after all, a generation of young people who know what they want, and just how they’ll move along their career journey to get it.
Looking ahead, employers should look to redesign and refresh their workspaces in a way that can both attract and engage a fresh wave of talent in addition to tailoring job roles to meet the demands of a 21st century employee, generating a robust pipeline of future talent in return.
They are a force for change and a force for good.
This is why Gen Z should work from the office.