Posted May 11, 2020 by Mark Perna
A new study uncovers some common pitfalls—especially for younger workers. Mark’s article, “Why Working From Home Is Tougher Than We Thought,” published at Forbes.com on May 11, 2020.
A new workplace survey by Engine Insights for Smartsheet reveals that working from home as a result of COVID-19 is difficult for all workers, but none more than Generation-Z and Millennials. In fact, despite being digital natives, fully 95% of Gen-Z workers and 93% of Millennial workers admit they’re having a tough time with the transition to working remotely.
Three-fourths of the U.S. workforce feels less connected than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Smartsheet, with notably higher numbers for Gen-Z (82%) and Millennials (81%). Moreover, since they started working from home, 60% of American workers feel less informed about what’s going on within their company. But, here again, younger workers reflect higher numbers, with 74% of Gen-Zers and 66% of Millennials, compared to just 53% and 50% of Gen-Xers and Boomers, respectively.
Communication—an ever-important issue in the workplace—is also a challenge for younger remote workers. Even with the explosion of video conferencing, nearly half of Gen-Zers (48%) and Millennials (46%) say that communicating with coworkers has become difficult, with only 35% of Gen-Xers and 36% of Boomers feeling the same way.
Also, nearly a third of all workers report that understanding the status of their projects has become a problem, with half of Gen-Zers and Millennials saying it’s been difficult to get status updates. And, conversely, more than one-third of workers are finding it harder to give status updates. (Close to 20%, however, say it’s easier.) Additionally, over 40% of Gen-Z and Millennials say it’s difficult to collect the information they need, versus 33% for both Gen-X and Boomers.
And in spite of their ease with technology, Gen-Z has already shown a surprising proclivity for face-to-face meetings over digital alternatives. So it’s not surprising, then, that in their experience, video meetings and email is turning out to be a poor substitute for in-person interactions. For instance, younger workers lament that rather than helping them, video conferencing is actually hindering their productivity, with a striking 61% of Gen-Z and 57% of Millennials saying that the time spent on daily video calls is getting in the way of their work. Older workers, on the other hand, aren’t feeling such stress nearly as deeply, with just 35% of Gen-X and 26% of Boomers reporting the same thing.
As more and more companies are discovering, working from home is not simply a matter of digital fluency. If it were, Gen-Z and Millennials would be navigating this uncharted territory with greater ease. Instead, their struggles point to a fundamental reality: for younger employees, remote work is an all-new way of doing their job, and it must be supported—and learned.Working from home is not simply a matter of digital fluency. Click To Tweet
Remote work requires more than just a reliable VPN and video meetings. In fact, technology is merely a first step; it does not, in itself, solve the problems that employees face in working from home. A happy and productive remote workforce comes from mastering the processes, communication and culture that make working from home both satisfying and successful. And that takes time and commitment.
For managers overseeing a remote work team, it’s critical to uncover the specific issues that your employees—and especially your Gen-Z and Millennial employees—are grappling with and to then provide meaningful solutions. Trimming the hours spent in video meetings is probably a good place to start. (Just because you can Zoom doesn’t mean that you should Zoom, at least not for everything.) But there’s plenty more that you can, and should, do. And that includes consciously communicating early and often on the status of projects and company updates.
The bottom line is this: Working remotely is about more than digital connectivity. And particularly for Gen-Z and Millennials, it’s a whole new way of navigating the world of work. So, as we all aim to stay safe, let’s embrace the learning curve—and do this thing.