The First Remote Generation: Helping Gen Z Navigate the Workplace

By: Dave Mekelburg

Apr 05, 2021

We’re all part of it: most of us have been at the center of the remote revolution that dominated working lives over the past year. We’ve all had to navigate “New Normals” and “WFH” and “Zoom fatigue” and continued to figure out what’s working for us and for our teams.


But for those Gen Z’ers entering the workforce – especially those whose first internships or full-time jobs have been fully remote – the ramifications of the remote world are even less clear.


One thing is certain, Gen Z is the most lukewarm generation towards remote work: PwC’s remote work study from earlier this year found that less-experienced workers were 50% more likely to prefer being in the office at least 4 days a week than the general population.


It’s particularly interesting given Gen Z’s youth social patterns pre-pandemic featured a lot less social contact and more time at home than any generation before them (see here for The Atlantic’s famous piece on the impact of smartphones, reduced social and out-of-the-house activity on Gen Z behavior and health). You might assume they’d be used to interacting almost entirely through technology.


It’s even more interesting considering that productivity and creativity – including by early career workers – doesn’t actually appear to be hampered at all by remote work.


But if you’re just starting your career, you’re really missing out on two cornerstones: career trajectory and connection. Organizations are struggling to deliver the mentorship and guidance that relationships between junior and senior staff often help foment. Even more-experienced Millennials are missing out on the hands-on coaching, and companies like Facebook have considered making the office the locus of junior employee experience.


There ARE things that can make things better:

  • Platforms like Tenspot can help connect teammates for peer-to-peer learning (or just social interaction)
  • Great onboarding experiences can make a world of difference (we use Greenhouse’s digital suite)
  • Internal mobility technology can help guide candidates through their career growth (okay,  I’m biased here, but at Wade & Wendy, we have an AI career guide that can help)
  • Reading this piece on Facilitating Connection in a Remote World


But… there is a final piece of the puzzle I find myself thinking a lot about: friendship.

For many people just starting off, work is a great place to meet your peers, and make connections that last a lifetime –  especially if you just moved to a new city or are striking out on your own somewhere.  I now have an entire network of close friends (and friends of friends) that wouldn’t exist without my first jobs.


Either way, figuring out how to help junior team members navigate this new world is one of the major challenges that we face looking ahead as leaders, as HR professionals, and as people.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this: we’re holding a Clubhouse conversation on Wed. 4/7 at 4 pm ET: “Remote Work’s Impact: Gen Z, Connection, and Career Trajectory” – you should definitely come and join in!


This was excerpted from the 4-1-2021 RAC Newsletter. Sign Up for the Newsletter here.

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