While the headlines carry the story that new hires are more likely to demand more location flexibility from their employers, Gen Z workers can actually save the physical workplace.
A new poll by the youth trends research firm Generation Lab shows that 40% of college students and recent graduates prefer full office work, with 39% seeking hybrid employment and only 19% opting for full remote management.
It’s difficult to get an accurate reading of how younger generations feel about the remote work versus office debate, because data on Gen Z work is often contradictory. A similar survey from employee engagement platform TenSpot reports that 30% of Gen Z employees want to work remotely full-time, as opposed to the 19% reported by Generation Lab. Meanwhile, a SkyNova survey, which interviewed 1,000 employees, found that 47% of Gen Zers are looking for a personal job.
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While the numbers vary between polling platforms, a general trend is easy to spot: the number of Gen Zs seeking completely personal positions is overwhelmingly higher than other generations, especially their baby boomers. If we compare the generation just starting to work with the generation starting to leave, baby boomers are by far the most likely to have a pro-remote work ethic.
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This may seem counterintuitive given that Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, grew up during the rise of digital technology. This generation of digital natives, often referred to as ‘iPad kids’, is expected to be the most familiar with the online nature of working from home.
However, with the first members turning 25 in 2022, the oldest Gen Zers had only a few years of “regular” work experience prior to the start of the pandemic — and many have only experienced a hybrid or remote career start. Without the introduction and reinforcement of the work standards that can be obtained by working in a physical office, Gen Zers reports a diminishing sense of community in the workplace, confusion about establishing mentorship, and a lack of career advancement opportunities.
A survey by Axios shows that 66% of young respondents prefer personal feedback from their manager and 45% of respondents are concerned about maintaining a distraction-free workplace in a remote or hybrid future. As for the intermediate generations, more than half of Millennials and Gen Xers, who often juggle responsibilities like childcare and housekeeping, prefer a hybrid or fully remote work style. Again, in line with trends, Gen Zers are more likely than millennials and Gen Xers to favor a personal workplace, as reported by Eden, a workplace management platform.
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So, what does this mean for employers trying to accommodate their newest employees? While it makes sense to assume that these digital natives would enjoy the nature of remote work, it’s clear that Gen Z craves human connection and a sense of direction in the workplace. Requiring everyone to be fully in the office can be a dramatic request, but offering at least some of the physical workplace experience — whether it’s implementing hybrid work styles or making certain meetings and learning opportunities personal — is likely to become greeted with enthusiasm by twenty-somethings.
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