As of 2019, those who identify as Generation Z officially outnumbered Millennials, making up 32% of the world’s population of 7.7. billion people, according to Bloomberg. Such a dramatic shift from typically collaborative Millennials to the more independent Gen Z has left managers wondering how to best work, manage and collaborate with them now that they are beginning to enter the workforce.
However, with one in four Americans working fully remote right now, what was supposed to be a time of discovery and emergence into the office for Gen Z—like all generations had done before them—has turned into a work environment that we are all navigating for the first time together.
The statistics indicate remote work—whether fully remote or a hybrid model—is likely to continue post-pandemic. In a recent Mercer study, one in three companies reported anticipating having half or more of their workforce remote post COVID with 94% of employers saying productivity has either improved or remained the same since transitioning to remote work.
This is great news for the 62% of candidates who said their ideal work situation would be a combination of onsite and remote work, according to a recent Kforce survey. But what about those who wouldn’t mind connecting around a conference table vs. over Zoom?
Surprisingly, a vast majority of those people who would prefer the former are Gen Z. Over 48 percent of Gen Z respondents reported they were either neutral to or disliked remote work in a recent Kforce survey, noting that the most challenging aspect of working from home is feeling connected to their coworkers.
With most of Gen Z reporting that they value strong communication with their managers and face-to-face conversation, it’s no surprise today’s remote environment might work against many of Gen Z’s strengths and preferences. So how can Gen Z work through their top challenges to get things done—remotely?
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 solidary focus—varying from (virtual) chess to monthly book club. Both 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 back 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 crisp 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 it is easier to be distracted working from home than in-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 progressing 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.
Tap into 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. Utilizing online tools to connect and network within your field—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.
Look for online resources: In a recent Kforce survey, over 47% of respondents reported their companies are planning to stay fully remote indefinitely and 30% reporting their employers are either staying fully remote or transitioning to a hybrid model. With such a shift in the way many companies structure their business model, most are continuing to provide fully remote resources, which are free and openly available. Webinars, such as Kforce’s Embrace Change: Find Success During Evolving Times, aim to help employees and job seekers navigate our ever-changing world of work.
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 just 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 new job search. If you’re ready to see what else is out there, we can help you find new 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. This challenge doesn’t have a solution, yet, but Gen Z isn’t navigating it alone. 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.