Fans of returning to the office have recently increasingly expressed concern for the predicament of remote Gen-Z employees. Arguments in favour of the return range from the potential isolation young workers face to networking and learning and development opportunities they could gain surrounded by colleagues. Meanwhile, new research has emphasised Gen-Z’s struggles with just 37 per cent of 18-24 year olds having regular check-ins from managers while working from home.
Yet, while it’s true that more than four in 10 (44 per cent) individuals in this age group want to return to the office, it’s important to ask: is this because Gen-Z are more suited to office working, learning and socialising? Or is it due to poor remote working and hybrid strategies that aren’t catering to Gen-Z needs? It’s feasible when you consider that 56 per cent of 18-24 year olds still prefer the lifestyle that remote working affords them.
With this in mind, it’s possible that for Gen-Z, an incredibly digitally adept generation, remote working doesn’t have to be problematic or isolating, as long as their employers understand the right strategies to keep them engaged.
So if your organisation is committing to a remote or hybrid working strategy, what can you do to support Gen-Z employees, keeping them happy and productive even if they’re working from home?
Adapting your communication
Ultimately, Gen-Z workers continue to have the same needs as generations before them. In essence, they need to understand their job, how to do it, how to fit in and where the company is heading – all of which require effective, regular communication to ensure they feel positively entrenched within the business.
Where they differ, however, is that Gen-Z, in particular, are used to being asked their opinion in all aspects of their lives – and work is no different.
This means businesses must adapt their comms methods to ensure Gen-Z not only understand their place and role within the business but feel they’re part of the conversation – and their voices are valued.
With remote or hybrid working, this means setting up conversations – at least monthly – face-to-face or by video, where local managers ‘translate’ corporate messages, explain the implications and illustrate with relatable examples. This is the real communication ‘superpower’ for line managers: inclusively helping all people make sense of messages.
These catch-ups are especially important for fully remote employees so that they get information that on-location workers may pick up through informal conversations with colleagues. Feeling isolated doesn’t need to be isolating with good communications.
To help, put aside a period of time in a meeting for a catch up with no set agenda. Remember, though, balance is key: devote more time to asking questions rather than putting across messages. This helps reassure Gen-Z’s that they are not forgotten and are fully part of the organisation’s mission.
Beyond this, running frequent surveys is also a key way to gauge Gen-Z’s opinions, engagement and allow them to communicate their own thoughts freely. Remember though, Gen-Z like fast responses, and clear, local action. Because of this, they are unlikely to respond well to long, detailed surveys that happen once a year and get no real response for months. Keep surveys quick and regular – with actionable outcomes.
Personalise the Gen-Z experience
Gen-Z’s tech-savviness is what makes them incredibly capable of working in a remote or hybrid environment. However, employers that want to ensure Gen-Z don’t feel isolated must look beyond logistically connecting employees through tech and create a personalised experience for them.
Doing this successfully means going beyond regular communication. It’s about ensuring that there are conversations about feelings and why employees are experiencing them.
Transparency is key for Gen-Z so it’s essential that they are enabled to be open about their thoughts, their priorities and understand where they can help – while also knowing that leadership will take ownership of these findings and use these thoughts and feelings to inform future action.
In knowing that work is personalised and that they have their fingerprints on team or business outcomes, Gen-Z will feel more integral to working life while also knowing their own personal fears or desires (surrounding anything from learning and development to socialising) are being taken into consideration.
Providing purpose in Gen-Z’s day-to-day
As individuals with a particular concern for reversing the social and environmental challenges of our time, having a strong purpose is a key factor that motivates Gen-Z in their work. Therefore, it’s essential to satisfy these interests whether they are in-office, fully remote or hybrid.
For Gen-Z, understanding their role in creating change is particularly pertinent and that’s why employers must clearly outline the organisation’s roles and objectives and demonstrate how each employee plays a part in creating the outcomes.
To express the broader organisational vision, updates should be given regularly, providing touchstones, context for daily work and a line of sight between a team’s work and the organisation’s purpose. Importantly, this reminds young (and new employees) where they are heading and why their work makes a difference.
Showing a strong commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
Innately tied to Gen-Z’s desire to make a difference through work is their commitment to Diversity and Inclusion. Gen-Z are particularly aware of an organisation’s values and employers seeking to engage Gen-Z must act astutely.
This means several things for employers. Firstly, commit to D&I in every sense of the term – ethnicity, race, disability status and sexuality (to name a few) – as Gen-Z care about the spectrum of issues.
Importantly, however, Gen-Z (and many others) feel strongly that improving D&I is not a tickbox exercise and organisations that talk the talk must meaningfully walk the walk. Consequently, since D&I problems and solutions are unique to each organisation, listening to and measuring employee sentiment is essential – not only to promote significant change but showcase care for all employees – no matter where they’re working.
The value that Gen-Z brings to an organisation is not under debate. Generally digitally astute, committed to company purpose and wanting to make meaningful change, employers must understand the needs of their people to create inclusive conversations and support in order to bring everyone along for the ride.