New research reveals that over half of employees aged under 35 are concerned about the toll COVID-19 will take on their careers, giving rise to the potential of a “lost generation”.

Aster Group, a housing association, has conducted research into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employees and what this will mean for the future of work.

Their research found that workers aged below 35 were particularly worried about the effect COVID-19 would have on their careers with over half (56 per cent) believing that it would impact their professional development.

This was a significantly higher figure in comparison to older workers. Only around four in 10 (39 per cent) of employees aged over 45 shared the same concern, showing the toll that the pandemic has taken on younger workers.

These findings come amid concerns that there will be a lost generation – a term coined to describe the young people whose careers and earnings potential will have been disproportionately harmed by COVID-19.

Additionally, this sentiment was somewhat echoed by employees overall. Less than half of workers overall (48 per cent) surveyed are optimistic about what the future holds for their careers.

Employee motivation has also been affected as one third of workers (31 per cent) feel less motivated now than prior to the onset of the global pandemic. This has been registered by over a third of leaders (37 per cent) who have found it difficult to motivate their employees since the start of COVID-19.

More worryingly, when asked how much their employees had developed during the pandemic, half of leaders (50 per cent) stated “not very much” (38 per cent) or “not at all” (12 per cent).

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, President of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, stated the need for urgent action from businesses to support young people:

Now is the time for businesses to really focus on the ‘human’ in ‘human resources’. The traditional office working environment is dead and leaders must find a way to “be present” to combat the lack of face-to-face interactions, particularly for younger employees who often need the most guidance.

The role of the manager has to change and become more pastoral so that employees can open up to their team leaders, and vice versa. Leading a team is no longer just about deadlines and KPIs. It must include promoting a healthy work-life balance and checking in on how people are doing, from both a professional and personal perspective.

Rachel Credidio, Group Transformation and People Director at Aster Group, said:

The impact of Covid-19 on jobs has been felt far more acutely by young people than any other group. This should be a wake-up call to the business community, who risk losing touch with their younger employees if they don’t do more to proactively engage and support them.

There is no doubt that flexible working is the future, but the disconnect it can create makes it even more important that firms do everything they can to stay in regular contact with their employees. They must find new and innovative ways of effectively providing the training, mentoring, support and social interaction that is sometimes easier and more natural to deliver in a traditional office environment.

*This research was conducted by YouGov, on behalf of Aster Group, which conducted two surveys – one of 1,015 GB employees and one of 1,004 GB senior business decision makers (excluding sole traders). Responses were collected between 15th and 19th October and 13th-19th October 2020 respectively. The surveys were carried out online.