After months of searching, recent Syracuse University grad Chloë Arambel began her first job at the Brand Agency in October 2020 from her childhood home. Navigating a full-time job against the backdrop of the pandemic, without having ever set foot in the office, came with a learning curve. She wondered how she would be trained, how she would learn what to do, whether she would understand (or even like) the industry, who she would talk to on a daily basis.
With a number of companies announcing some employees can work outside the office indefinitely, it’s clear that fully remote or hybrid work is here to stay. The 2021 Work Trend Index analyzed data from Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn usage to find that 73% of people from various industries want permanent flexible remote-work options. This means that Gen Z (the oldest of whom are turning 24 this year) is the first generation to start their careers remotely on a vast scale, away from the coworkers, mentors, and office cultures that typically define early work experiences. The pandemic is their outlook-defining moment, according to the Center for Generational Kinetics, so the lessons they take away and the practices they develop now will follow them throughout their careers.
By 2030, Gen Z will be a third of the workforce in the United States, so ensuring that they get the best start possible and are set up for success is in every company’s interest. Reliable internet access and a comfortable place to work are the relatively easy part. The rest is a bit experimental. Some 60% of Gen Z professionals say they’re struggling — with motivation, isolation, collaboration, and work identity — which indicates that their adjustment to remote work isn’t as simple as being tech savvy.
“New hires have many of the same needs, whether they start remotely or in an office. They want to know what’s expected of them and how they can contribute. They want to meet people and feel included. They want to be recognized and bring value to their team. So we take a whole-person approach,” says Luciana Duarte, Global Head of Employee Experience at HP.
Challenges for young employees
Unlike mid-career and senior-level workers, Gen Z hasn’t yet developed work habits or strategies and isn’t used to working standard business hours. There are fewer organic chances to find a mentor at work or to socialize naturally online, and collaboration tools can’t yet replace in-person teamwork. It’s harder to learn the subtle (and even the not-so-subtle) professional norms that go along with each company’s environment. Like anyone starting out, they don’t yet know what they don’t know.