How WFH is taking a heavy toll on pro-office Gen Z
One year after global lockdowns began due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey1 by Commercial Café, about half of employed workers are still working from home. Work-life balance was a key issue before the pandemic hit but the enforced “work from home” regime has hit the youngest element of the workforce (Generation Z) hardest. In this article we look at the evidence that supports Gen Zers fondness for a return to office life and look at the negative effects that enforced working from home is having on that group.
37% of Gen Z respondents reported a deterioration in work-life balance since the pandemic
According to the survey of more than 1500 respondents, Gen Zers were less satisfied with their work-life balance than other generations. Less than half of Gen Z said they were happy with their work-life balance and the transition to working from home seemed to adversely affect Gen Zers more than others. 37% of Gen Z respondents reported a deterioration in work-life balance since the pandemic began, more than any other group.
One theory for this is that Gen Z is just entering the workforce and establishing themselves. Usually, entry level jobs are a proving ground and are under the supervision of managers, but this isn’t happening now and building relationships, trust and developing rapport with colleagues cannot easily be done remotely, outside the office environment. Gen Z have had to go home during this formative period and missed out on opportunities to collaborate and learn the ins and outs of office life.
Gen Z prefer to work in a communal workplace rather than home
Workplace Insight highlighted research2 from design specialist Peldon Rose which found that Gen Z prefer to work in a communal workplace rather than home. The report states that Gen Z are social creatures, preferring to work in an office environment, with only 8 percent thinking they work best from home, compared to 20 percent nationally.
This is endorsed by a 2021 survey3 in which Gen Zers were reported to be the most pro-office generation. Nearly three quarters of Gen Zers cited the lack of social interaction as what they disliked the most about working from home. Over a third described their WFH experience as only “Neutral” or “Actively Negative”. When asked about what specific aspects of office life Gen Zers missed most, nearly half referenced meeting rooms and local bars and restaurants, 40% missed the free coffee and 37% missed places to do focussed work.
These findings are unsurprising given that a higher proportion of Gen Zers are living with parents, housemates, or friends compared to the other age groups. Gen Zers often comment on the difficulty of working in house or flat shares, competing for enough space and the quiet time to work effectively.
Remote work is taking a heavy toll on Gen Z’s career potential and growth
Just when Gen Zers most need access to colleagues, management, and a professional network, they’re stuck at home in front of a screen. Remote work is taking a heavy toll on their career potential and growth. Many Gen Z professionals are struggling right now with productivity and motivation. They feel isolated and disconnected from their peers. They’re not confident enough to speak up about what they’re missing and what they need.
It’s clear that Gen Zers are struggling more than other generations because they can’t get the interactions that initiate them into office life and company culture, and it’s hindering their career prospects. What’s more, social and professional relationships both in terms of quality and quantity have proven to be the best coping mechanism for hardship in the pandemic.
71% of Gen Zers expected their employer to have an office
As lockdown eases Gen Z workers will be eagerly looking forward to a return to well designed, purposeful offices that are fun, collaborative and support their mental wellbeing. Looking to the future, 71% of Gen Zers expected their employer to have an office, with 77% saying that “team culture” was the main reason they wanted an office.
Flexible workspaces are a great example of those offices best suited to provide the type of purposeful modern working environments that Gen Z say they are seeking. Now is a great time for forward-looking businesses to capitalise on this desire to get back to the office, to review their workspace strategy and to ensure they have the right environments from which to nurture and woo our future generation of business leaders.
Generation Z born 1996 and later.