This is not a drill.
Because with 47.4 million jobs left voluntarily last year, The Great Resignation’s a fact — not fiction.
But this isn’t just a fad for more experienced employees; those who’ve been around the block and gained a whole “new perspective” from the pandemic.
It’s affecting Gen-Z workers with little to no work experience, too.
According to an Adobe survey of 5,500 workers, 56% of those aged between 18 and 24 are planning to move jobs in the next year. This is supported by previous research from Microsoft that revealed 77% of Gen Zs were considering quitting.
So, what’s going on?
Looking busy, burning out and the stigma around breaks
Alarmingly, research by non-profit Mind Share found that 75% of Gen-Z workers had left a job at some point due to mental health reasons. This is backed by an Eagle Hill survey which revealed that 58% of people who are working from home complained about feeling “burned out”.
Perhaps part of the problem is that the average workday has increased by 48.5 minutes since the start of the first lockdown ( National Bureau of Economic Research). Makes sense that without breaks or impromptu chats, people are feeling a little sapped — right?
Well, it’s even worse for Gen-Z workers.
Because these first time workers are getting into the habit of skipping breaks in order to “prove themselves”. One study into workforce engagement and retention revealed that 51% of younger remote employees were worried their manager “had doubts about their productivity,” leading 44% to work longer hours and 37% to skip lunch breaks.
Worse still, some are unaware it’s normal to take breaks in the first place.
“It’s one of the things I’ve noticed with our grads and also my son who’s started doing a remote placement. They’ve got no cues as to what’s acceptable behaviour,” says Simon Coles, Co-founder and CEO of Amphora Research Systems. Like many, the company Simon’s son is placed at uses timesheets to log staff working hours. But with no experienced colleagues around to learn from, some are left unsure how this system works for breaks.
“My son was struggling to make his hours because unless he was literally typing in front of a computer, he didn’t count the time. He just had no way of knowing that you kind of expect 10–20% of your time to be spent making a cup of coffee or whatever,” says Coles.
But this is only one of many obstacles younger workers face when starting a remote role.
Set up to fail (or not set up at all)
Many entry-level workers are still students and, consequently, still live in shared accommodation. And unless they’re fortunate, most are just not set up properly for work.
“Some might have gotten used to university work in there — but others haven’t. They might not have the workspace and have been going into the library instead,” says Simon from Amphora Research Systems.
Amphora Research Systems tackles this by ensuring their grads have all the equipment they need to work comfortably and efficiently. Not only that, they’re looking at other ways they can make WFH easier as well.
“We know that our grads are going to be using their payslips when trying to rent a house.
And if they can rent a house with another bedroom, that’s going to make a massive difference to them. So we pulled forward pay rises and compensate that way instead of bonuses. Just so they’ve got something that looks better on a payslip,” says Coles.
But for some less established companies, this might not be financially viable. So, how can they ensure remote-working grads feel seen, heard and supported?
Create a community and put the power in their hands
We’ve asked whether or not WFH is right for Gen-Z workers before. And the struggle to make meaningful connections was definitely a downside.
Well despite having only hired their first graduate a couple of months ago, emerging technology company OSO already has big plans to help support their entry-level recruits.
“One thing we’re aware of as a company is how important it is to create a graduate community,” says OSO’s Head of Operations, Ian Furlong.
“OSO is looking to do this with some of our clients that have graduates onboard. We’re also looking across Leeds to find any existing groups and meetups. This should help grads feel motivated beyond their day-to-day and also give them a sounding board of peers so that they can help each other through. These are things that I was really grateful for having on my graduate scheme when I was working in a big face-to-face office,” he continued.
And that’s the point. Many of today’s first-time workers have never felt the benefit of face-to-face reinforcement at work. However, there are ways employers can fill these voids remotely — and the little things go a long way.
“We do virtual high fives. They are snappy quick bits of praise no matter how small and I am a big fan,” says Nick Adamou, Marketing Manager at Fintech startup Comma. Not only that, “…we also do weekly wins as a whole team and announce what we have achieved this week. As a fast-growing start-up, it is surprising how much you achieve in just a week!”
But employers can expect to achieve even more if they put Gen Z workers in charge from time to time. Just think, this is a generation of digital natives like no other before them; one with a wealth of experience in how to get the best out of today’s tools.
Research shows there’s an appetite to pass on this knowledge as well. According to Dell Technologies, more than three-quarters of Zoomers would willingly act as technology mentors to colleagues.
But for Tammy Perkins, chief people officer at PMI Worldwide, reverse mentoring can go so much further than technology.
“Give them opportunities to lead meetings, important conversations, cultural, and team-building activities. Develop young professionals’ skills by demonstrating that you believe in their talent and trust their judgment. Offer them stretch assignments to keep advancing their skills,” she told Fast Company in ‘Burned out and isolated: how to get through to your struggling Gen Z workers’.
There’s a whole new perspective peering through that Zoom window, full of ideas and waiting to contribute.
Just make sure your ears aren’t on mute — they’ll stick around.