Five Tips For Gen-Zers Who’ve Never Seen Their Office
Gen-Z (born 1997-2012) and Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) have something surprising in common: they share similar feelings about remote work. Interesting, right? The internet, social media and cell phones were always part of Gen-Z’s lives. Many don’t remember a time before Facebook or Instagram. Although earning a driver’s license was once a teenage rite of passage, many Gen-Zers didn’t even bother. That’s partly because social gatherings often took place virtually, over apps like Houseparty or Kik.
Despite their tech-heavy adolescence, many Gen-Z professionals are tired of remote work. In a recent survey for workforce engagement platform Ten Spot, they were the least likely to want to work remotely full time. While more than half of all Millennials and Gen-Xers who responded to the survey want to leave the office behind, just one third of Gen-Z workers agreed. Perhaps Gen-Z is just wanting to live out the office experience they thought they’d have after college?
Meanwhile, only 42% of Boomers were willing to be fully remote. More so than the other generations, an identical 40% of Gen-Z and Baby Boomer respondents said they didn’t feel as productive working from home. People in their early 20s crave the collaboration and camaraderie they imagine happens in an office. They realize that being online all the time could be costing them mentoring and networking opportunities. Plus, they’re probably tired of conducting Zoom calls from their Mom’s basement. “I want the culture that everyone talks about, the fun office mentality,” Lizzie Schmidt a 22-year-old product management analyst at Signify Health told Time magazine. “Overall, there’s probably more excitement from younger people to go into the office than older people.” So if you’re in this age group (or know someone who is), here are some tips for Gen-Zers who’ve never seen their office.
1. Fix Up Your Workspace
Not long after becoming legal adults, last year’s lockdowns ushered in a bizarre online world for many in Generation Z. They completed college coursework online, enjoyed a virtual graduation, and interviewed for their first post-grad job via videoconference. Which means that while they now enjoy a career and an income, their surroundings often remain unchanged. One reason so many Millennials and Gen-Xers like remote work is that they are more likely to have home offices or dedicated work spaces. Whether a Gen-Zer resides at home or in a cramped urban apartment, an ongoing issue is what 25-year old content producer Melodi described in Time as the “cross-contamination” of her work space and living space. I love that description because It suggests that changes are necessary.
It’s hard to feel like a successful professional when you’re doing your job in your childhood bedroom.
If you are earning an income, don’t let the pandemic stop you from exploring getting your own place— either solo or with roommates. If remote work is continuing for the coming months, there are plenty of cities to choose from. Despite their feelings about remote work, the Ten Spot survey showed that almost half of remote working Gen-Zers moved to a new location – more than any other generation surveyed. If you do stay where you grew up, put some of your growing savings toward a home office set up. You can even turn a shed into a “she shed!”
2. Look into Coworking Spaces
Coworking is an awesome compromise between fully remote and in-office, which is why the coworking space industry is expected to boom in the wake of the pandemic. It can encourage face-to face collaboration and give you new networking opportunities. Most importantly, it can give you a work routine.. If you’re in Boston and your company is in New York, it’s likely there are a couple of coworkers nearby. Reach out to them and talk to your manager to see if the company will cover a co-working space.
3. Ask For Help
I’m not just suggesting that you ask for help when you’re unsure of your tasks. I hope you already do that. Instead, I think if there are nuances of your job you aren’t sure about or ongoing questions, keep a running list and set aside time with your supervisor to go over them. Yes, screen sharing is annoying. Teaching is about connecting... And this connection can help you develop a bond with a potential mentor. As Adam Galinsky, a professor of organizational behavior at Columbia Business School told The Wall Street Journal, the lack of mentoring opportunities is his biggest concern for Gen-Zers who have never seen their office. “A lot of lessons are absorbed casually in an office,” he points out, “but you can’t take any of that for granted in a virtual workplace.” Remote workers also lose out on the “burst of socialization and organizational energy” and learning they would have enjoyed during pre-pandemic in-person orientations.
Over and over when people discuss the ways remote work can derail a career, it’s about lack of mentoring for younger workers and lack of face time with the boss for everyone. Reaching out to a supervisor is a good way to overcome that.
4.Network Even if it’s Online
Hannah McConnaughey, a Gen-Z Microsoft product marketing manager who works remotely lamented the lack of “…hallway conversations, chance encounters, and small talk over coffee. [I]t's hard to feel connected even to my immediate team, much less build meaningful connections across the company.” One of her biggest concerns: "Networking as someone early in their career has gotten so much more daunting since the move to fully remote work — especially since switching to a totally different team during the pandemic!"
Many people tried to dodge networking, even when we weren’t facing home confinement. Now that most events have made their way online, it can seem even more daunting. Still, growing your professional network will pay off in real dividends— emotionally, spiritually and financially! Research online events for your profession and try some LinkedIn or Meetup forums. If you live in some states like Texas or Florida, there are likely in-person events as well.
5. Don’t Act as if it’s Temporary
If your office hasn’t reopened yet, there’s a good chance it won’t be reopening anytime soon. Even when it does, it will likely be far different from what it once was (or how you imagined it would be). A good percentage of its staff could remain fully remote or on a hybrid schedule.
You’re new in your career but that doesn’t mean you need to silently accept things that trouble you. Instead, develop coping strategies and ways to remain comfortable as a remote worker. If you truly want to be in an office, there are plenty of businesses that are fully reopened. In fact, some never closed.
Just because your moods seem steady, don’t assume you’re okay. Low grade depression or dysthymia can start to feel normal. It isn’t. Earlier this year, Microsoft surveyed over 31,000 workers. Although almost three-quarters hoped remote work options would continue when the pandemic ends, Gen-Z respondents were more likely than other age groups to say they’re stressed and struggling. If you’re single, you may feel isolated. If you live near other coworkers, reach out to them! Don’t wait for them to make the first move in getting to know you. Getting together with other team members for coffee or a happy hour can really help you feel connected. If you don’t live near coworkers, consider getting in touch with hometown high school friends or college acquaintances who have also moved back home. Even making friends in the neighborhood can give you a sense of belonging that could be missing from your remote work.
For many Boomers, the office was where the “real” work happened. They remember it as a place filled with collaborating teams and fun after-hours activities. For Gen-Zers who haven’t spent time in their office, it’s almost mythical. One reason many people between the ages of 30 to 60 aren’t eager to return is that they remember offices as places with shared desks, shared colds, distractions in the hallway, and long commutes. Office life isn’t for everyone, and we knew this way before the pandemic... Which means that even if you don’t wind up working in one, there’s nothing holding you back from forging meaningful connections and living your best life.