Posted February 8, 2021 by Mark Perna
Struggling with productivity, boredom and mental health, Gen Z could use a hand. Mark’s article, “4 Huge Challenges For Remote Gen Z Workers—And How To Overcome Them,” published at Forbes.com on February 2, 2021.
Working from home has been a massive adjustment for the American workforce, but you might assume it was easier on some generations than others. The tech-native Gen Z, for example, ought to have taken to remote work like a duck to water—right?
Wrong, as it turns out.
According to a new study by Ten Spot, Gen Z has faced huge challenges in the transition to working from home, especially in the areas of productivity, boredom, mental health and skill development. Only 13% say they have no remote-work challenges and love their work-from-home life.
Employers can play a role in addressing these challenges, but it will require thoughtful use of resources to optimize Gen Z’s contribution in a virtual workspace. I recently connected with Sammy Courtright, Ten Spot’s co-founder and Chief Brand Officer, to discuss the data and the practical steps employers can take to support their youngest generational cohort. Here’s what she had to share.
According to the survey, fully 54% of Gen Z workers report being less productive when working from home.
Distractions are one factor. “The pandemic started with people working from couches or their beds, which was fun for the first 30 days,” says Courtright. But that quickly changed as the reality of a long-term remote-work stint sank in.
Clearly, employers can’t control the level of distractions in an employee’s home workspace, but they may be able to help with the basics. “It may seem obvious, but employers need to ensure their employees have a decent home office set-up,” says Courtright. “A desk, mouse, keyboard, or monitor can have a considerable impact on an employee’s productivity.”
Another factor is time management and structure—both of which are skills that can be taught. “For some Gen Z workers, this might be their first professional work experience post-college—and they may need some guidance on structuring their days to maximize productivity,” advises Courtright. “Managers need to consider a more hands-on approach, and part of their job training should include tips on ways to structure their days.”
Finally, managers should reconsider the frequency of their check-ins with Gen Z workers. “Weekly stand-ups might need to increase to daily check-ins to get on the same page and connect,” says Courtright.
The bottom line: Make sure younger employees have what they need to function from home, guide them in structuring their days to be productive and increase check-in frequency.
Almost half (48%) of Gen Z workers confess that they’re bored with their work-from-home jobs.
“Humans are social creatures,” says Courtright. “For Gen Z workers, one of the exciting perks about a job is the social aspect of engaging with coworkers, and this has suffered since the pandemic struck.”Almost half (48%) of Gen-Z workers confess that they’re bored with their work-from-home jobs. Click To Tweet
Employers can help by providing opportunities for employees to connect socially beyond the workday grind. If you’re stuck on what to offer, Courtright recommends surveying employees to better understand the types of virtual social events that would interest them. “The most popular events we’ve hosted have been virtual trivia nights, live stand-up comedy sets, cocktail crafting classes and scavenger hunts.”
Younger workers may also experience boredom when they don’t feel challenged or stimulated by their work. “With the pandemic, some companies have neglected the importance of continuing job training,” says Courtright. This was understandable during the adjustment to pandemic working conditions, but now that remote work is largely established for most companies, it’s time to double back and address skill development. “Gen Z workers want to continue to learn new skills to further their professional development,” says Courtright.
Finally, managers should ask themselves if they’re doing a good job communicating the company vision to the younger generations. “Do they feel connected to the larger purpose?” asks Courtright. “Gen Z workers traditionally have entry-level jobs, which can largely be in the weeds.
“It is imperative to remind all employees of the company’s mission, or north star, and how each and every employee plays a part in accomplishing that mission.”
The bottom line: Create opportunities for social engagement among coworkers, continue job training and help younger workers see their role in accomplishing the company’s purpose.
According to the survey, mental health and wellbeing is a major concern for Gen Z—and the topic they request most for company-sponsored virtual events. Courtright observes that Gen Z is the loneliest generation, a fact that impacts both their emotional wellbeing and physical health.
Social media may play a role in the mental health challenges this generation is experiencing. “While Millennials spearheaded advancements in tech and social media adoption, Gen Z is the first group to actually grow up with it as part of their everyday lives,” says Courtright. “There’s more screen time, more Instagramming, more TikToking, and more overall broadcasting of daily lives and an immense pressure to compete.
“That said, Gen Z is the leading generation that is open to and seeking out help with mental health and wellbeing. So, Gen Z workers may be more conscious of their mental health and actively seek out ways to better their wellbeing.”
Employers can help in this area. “One of the biggest things that employers can do not only for Gen Z workers, but for all of their workers, is to embrace the need for, and value of, mental health and wellness and work to remove the stigma around it,” she says. “Additionally, providing a support system of mental health benefits—from meditation apps to online and in-person therapy to training around managing workplace and personal stress and anxiety—is essential.
“But perhaps, most importantly, employers need to be open to listening and approach struggling employees with empathy.”
The bottom line: Offer meaningful mental health and wellbeing resources to your employees, with a focus on removing the stigma around this widespread struggle.
To overcome their remote work challenges, Gen Z indicated more interest in meal delivery services than in mentoring or professional learning courses. At the same time, 59% ranked learning new skills as their top benefit of working from home. Courtright explains this seeming discrepancy as a largely financial factor.
“At this stage of their careers, Gen Z typically holds entry-level positions that come with lower salaries,” she says. “For many, the free snacks and meals factor into their food budget.”
Skill development still matters to Gen Z—but on their terms. “They want autonomy when it comes to learning,” Courtright notes. “These are employees who grew up learning things from YouTube videos, binge-watching shows on Netflix and shopping recommendations tailored for them by Amazon. As a result, they’re used to customized and catered experiences that they can access on-demand.
“Gen Z still wants to learn, but the majority want to learn at their own pace, in their own way. So, less ‘I have to take this professional development course at this exact time’ and more ‘I’ll get to it when I want to and in my own way.’
The bottom line: Consider the flexible skill development options that make sense for your organization and give employees as much autonomy as possible to pursue their own growth. (And offering a few free snacks and meals along the way won’t hurt, either.)
While certain challenges have been universally felt by all generations who made the switch to remote work, there are nuances for Gen Z. “It’s important for employers to discover what will make Gen Z employees happy, productive and engaged now so that they can set them up for success,” says Courtright.
The remote work challenges that Gen Z is currently experiencing don’t have to define their lifelong careers. Employers can take a proactive role in helping Gen Z employees reach their full potential—both from home, and, when the time comes, back in the office. “Supporting their needs now will empower this generation to lead in the workplace for the decades to come,” says Courtright.
“Gen Z is the future of our workforce.”The remote work challenges that Gen Z is currently experiencing don’t have to define their lifelong careers. Click To Tweet