Gen Z employees crave in-person interactions more than their colleagues, even in increasingly dispersed and remote work environments, according to multiple national surveys and studies.
As Gen Z employees—those born between 1997 and 2012—become a greater part of the workforce, managers can share a handful of strategies to ensure their newest generation is primed to succeed in a hybrid or remote workplace.
These young professionals are entering the world of work in one of the most disruptive times in history. Gen Z employees, many who are taking on the first professional role of their careers, are thrust into the workforce at a time when traditional work models are facing a worldwide pivot. The number of Americans working remotely tripled between 2019 and 2021, according to the US Census Bureau. Predictions estimate 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022 and they will only increase through 2023.
And research shows work outside of a traditional office isn't going anywhere. A 2022 AT&T study on the future of work predicts the hybrid model is expected to grow from 42% in 2021 to 81% in 2024.
This is great news for the 88% of candidates who said their ideal work situation would be either a hybrid or fully remote work model, according to a February 2023 Kforce survey of 2,500 jobseekers nationwide. But what about those who wouldn't mind connecting around a conference table?
Gen Z are by far the biggest fans of in-person work experiences, data shows. In a 2023 study by Joblist, only 27% of Gen Z respondents said they would prefer to work remotely in comparison to 49% of millennials and 40% of Gen X and Baby Boomers.
According to a February 2023 Kforce survey, the majority of those who identify as Gen Z say strong communication is the most important factor in their relationship with their manager, followed closely by support for career goals and growth. While a remote environment might pose challenges for these preferences, there are many strategies Gen Z can use to work through obstacles and find career fulfillment.
Challenge 1: How do I overcome feeling disconnected from my team?
Make time for connection: In today’s remote workplace, welcoming the newest member of the team or connecting with a familiar colleague isn’t as easy as stopping by their desk on your way to the break room. Instead, communication needs to be more intentional. Sending a quick 10-15 minute video invite to welcome your new colleague or setting aside time to have a virtual coffee break with some of your teammates is a great way to connect with other employees, gain familiarity with the company culture and unplug for a moment from your daily tasks to return refreshed.
Explore Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or clubs: If you’re looking to connect with your peers at a larger scale, many companies have established ERGs, which are often employee-led and offer a diverse, inclusive forum to connect and share ideas. Alternatively, clubs offer a shared focus—varying from (virtual) chess to books to cooking. Community groups will help you stay engaged with colleagues on a regular basis, develop interpersonal and leadership capabilities and offer opportunities to improve corporate culture. Your HR department will likely be a great resource to understand if ERGs or clubs are offered at your company.
Challenge 2: How can I ensure maximum productivity when working from home?
Ensure you have the tools for success: Nothing will make working more difficult than not having the right tools and technology. For starters, a stable desk (even if it’s your dining room table) and chair, as well as a mouse, keyboard and second monitor will help with fatigue, maintaining proper posture and ensuring you won’t spend too much time flipping between tabs to knock out your to-do list. If you are on the phone or in video meetings often, a reliable headset is another great investment to ensure clear communication between you and your team, clients or customers.
Limit your distractions: The past year or so has proven difficult for many employees to keep their work and personal lives separate. From our dogs barking in the background of our meetings to roommates attending meetings of their own, we know at-home work offers different types of distraction than the office. However, some distractions can be limited or eliminated. If you find yourself easily distracted, keep the television or radio off, try not to multi-task (folding laundry, washing dishes, etc.) and set task reminders on your work calendar to maintain your workflow.
Set a routine and commit to it: To get the most out of working from home, experts recommend keeping a routine—much like you would if you were going into the office each day. For some, that means “commuting” to their home office space each morning to reset their brain for work, while others prefer to spend their lunch hour working out, reading a book or getting out of the house. It’s easy to roll out of bed and start working, but investing some effort and having intention with your schedule will increase your daily productivity.
Challenge 3: How do I overcome the difficulty of improving my skills remotely?
Don’t discredit soft skills and continuous learning: Remote or hybrid working environments are perfect for expanding our communication skills, completing self-study for certifications or using the time saved commuting to take online classes. Many colleges today offer fully remote, accredited coursework, and are open to students nationwide. Online resources like Coursera, Skillshare and LinkedIn Learning can help you hone existing skills for your current role or give you a competitive edge when looking for something new.
Find a mentor: Many companies have established mentorship programs—where an employee is paired with a more experienced leader for growth and development opportunities. If your company doesn’t have an established program, or if you would like a mentor outside of work, then you can still find one without meeting face-to-face. Online networking tools—whether in professional groups or through LinkedIn—could help you find a mentor to help develop your skills and provide guidance through the course of your career.
Challenge 4: How can I stand out to my manager in my current job?
Go further: If you find yourself nearing the end of your to-do list toward the middle of the workday, then you may be ready to take on additional duties and responsibilities. Scheduling a time to connect with your manager to discuss your current role could make the difference between hitting refresh on your Outlook inbox all afternoon and growing to own a new project or initiative. Especially in today’s remote environment, many managers and colleagues may have a hard time understanding the volume of your daily workload. Signaling you are ready to take on more can help you gain additional skills through stretch assignments, touch more areas of your industry and possibly lead to more compensation or a promotion down the line.
Look ahead: The most impactful leaders understand the big picture and are looking for like-minded employees to step into their role as they move through the company. Setting monthly skip-level meetings or shadowing sessions with a mid-level manager shows initiative toward a deeper understanding of the industry and company you support, helping you stand out among your colleagues. Plus, it is a great way to explore the skills and responsibilities needed for your future roles—giving you more time to hone your skill set and match your experience before stepping into leadership.
Explore new jobs: However, if you find yourself still feeling bored or stuck in your current role after seeking additional duties, it may signal you are ready for a new challenge. Leaving a job you are comfortable in is hard, but can be rewarding for the potential growth opportunities that come with a job search. If you’re ready to see what else is out there, we can help you find roles that match your skill set or connect you with a recruiter.
Challenge 4 ½: How do I overcome the fear of uncertainty about the future of work?
Everyone is navigating the uncertainty: The last challenge of remote work many employees in Gen Z are facing is also something that every other generation in the workforce is working through, which is the uncertainty of the job market. We may not know what the future holds, but we do know preparation for tomorrow's workplace is the key for professionals who want to remain relevant in today's evolving workforce. With each generation that enters the workforce, our world of work alters to accommodate new trends and technologies they bring. Although our current work environment is different from any workplace we’ve seen before, we can overcome this challenge together to define and shape it to fit our new digital and remote environment.