“You don’t know how good you’ve got it.”
Newly employed members of Gen Z are likely getting used to that one 🙄- especially when it comes to working from home.
But are they really loving this remote version of working life?
Well, the research raises more questions than answers.
A recent survey by Ten Spot showed that only 30% of Gen Z wanted to stay remote full time, while 34% said they were “more productive and engaged” working from the office.
“Humans are social creatures,” says Sammy Courtright, co-founder and Chief Brand Officer at Ten Spot. And Jade Russell (24), a Marketing Executive at Tiger Marketing, seems to agree.
“I’m quite a social person, so being able to have real-life human contact is nice sometimes. I think it’s harder to build relationships through a screen,” she told DigitalGrads.
She started at Tiger Marketing during the pandemic and was offered the option to work partly from home. However, despite some of its drawbacks, she does feel like the positives far outweigh the negatives.
“The pros are definitely the working life balance, you can start the day later and finish earlier already being at home. Having more of a life that doesn’t revolve around work. The only con is relationship building, but Teams and video calling makes that easier,” she said.
Riding the struggle bus and zooming past the culture
Unlike many Gen Z workers born between 1997 and 2012 who may not have known any different, Jade was cutting her teeth at digital marketing agencies before the pandemic.
“Working in the office when I first started my career was imperative. I can’t imagine having to learn the ropes and getting the hang of working life in this industry from home.”
This is something that was echoed in the research by Ten Spot.
“For Gen Z workers, some of the most exciting perks about a job are the company culture, socialising with coworkers, and finding a mentor they really connect with,”
Ten Spot’s Sammy Courtright told Time in ‘Remote Work Is All Gen Z Knows. But Are They Satisfied?’
Unfortunately, research from Microsoft paints an even bleaker picture for this demographic. Data from Microsoft Work Trends Index, a survey of 31,092 full-time employed or self-employed workers across 31 markets last year, suggests Gen Z is struggling more than any other age group to feel engaged or excited about working this way. Worryingly, 60% of this generation said they were “merely surviving or flat-out struggling” right now.
Generally, Gen Z workers responded to Microsoft’s surveys by saying they find themselves more stressed than their peers. They tend to be single because they’re younger, which heightens feelings of isolation. To make matters worse, they don’t have the financial means to create a comfortable workspace at home if their employer won’t pay for it.
But climbing up the ladder to become more financially secure isn’t getting any easier. The report also suggests that this group is missing out on the opportunities that lead to career-advancing projects – or even just becoming closer with the boss.
“Without hallway conversations, chance encounters, and small talk over coffee, it’s hard to feel connected even to my immediate team, much less build meaningful connections across the company,”
says Hannah McConnaughey, a product marketing manager at Microsoft who’s a Gen Z worker.
“Networking as someone early in their career has gotten so much more daunting since the move to fully remote work — especially since switching to a totally different team during the pandemic!”
So, where do we go from here?
Hybrid working – striking the perfect balance for Gen Z
By allowing these formative workers to “dip their toes” and gently get a feel for things, there’s an argument that hybrid working might just be the perfect solution for Gen Z.
Jade at Tiger Marketing reckons so, anyway. She believes a hybrid model strikes the perfect balance and that companies should continue to give employees the opportunity to work from home long term.
“I personally love working from home. It definitely suits me because I have a chronic condition that’s much more manageable in the comfort of home. But being hybrid means I still get the social side too,” she says.
So, what does she reckon the future of work looks like?
“I think fully working from home is the next step for most companies. It saves money, it makes some employees happier and the work-life balance is evened out.”
Reassuring to hear when work-life balance is something Gen Z is reportedly struggling with. Because research from Hubble revealed that 40.7% of Zoomer respondents ranked it as one of their top three worst things about working from home; that’s compared to 35% of Millennials and 27.8% of Gen X & Baby Boomers. This is substantiated by the Gen Z Spotlight Report which revealed 75% of the Gen Zers prioritised a healthy work-life balance – more than any other demographic surveyed.
Hybrid working certainly provides a healthier work-life balance. But beyond setting boundaries, are newly-employed Gen Z workers missing out on anything you can’t teach at home?
The perks of WFH vs. out of office FOMO
Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel, the authors of ‘Out of Office’, believe a certain amount of time in the office is crucial for developing Gen Z – and not in terms of traditional training.
Instead, it’s about human connection and forming healthy, responsible ways to communicate with their peers. Because while they believe those “spontaneous water-cooler interactions” are romanticised, they argue that gossip, after-work drinks and even body language teach new employees important ways to behave inside the workplace.
“Small talk, passing conversations, even just observing your manager’s pathways through the office may seem trivial, but in the aggregate they’re far more valuable than any form of company handbook,” they say in ‘Remote Work Is Failing Young Employees’.
What’s more, they believe that there’s no reason these skills can’t be translated into a remote or flexible work environment.
But working from home isn’t going anyway anytime soon – so what’s the answer?
“If we’re serious about building a sustainable future of work, we can’t leave a whole swath of employees behind. They’ll just develop bad habits and waste endless hours trying to piece together the rules of the game when someone could’ve just told them. Businesses have to decide: Are you going to pretend the problem doesn’t exist, allowing it to tax your organisation in all sorts of tangible and intangible ways, or are you going to invest in the sort of intentional mentorship and structure that will yield dividends down the road?”
If the research has taught us anything, it’s that one size doesn’t fit all with this demographic and that giving Gen Z the choice is the right thing to do. And with the likes of Slack, Zoom, Miro and everything in between, we’ve got the tools to create a more digitally-connected workforce.
So remember, this might be the perfect solution for your lifestyle but don’t leave Gen Z in the lurch. Because whether they’re in the office or working from home, they need support more than anything at this stage.
And you can’t dial that in.