Justine Johnson finds out what Generation Z want from the world of work

Discussions about returning to the office have been ongoing for three years now, mostly involving those who were used to going into an office in the first place.

But what about those who might consider the office an alien concept? Those who have no experience of office life. Those we now call Generation Z, born after 1996-97 and for whom the pandemic dispatched any pre-conceived notions about a daily commute or the traditional 9-5 existence?

It struck me at a recent industry event that in a room full of people talking about Gen Z nobody had actually spoken to a Zoomer (yes, they are called Zoomers).

Companies have been strategising and ideating since the pandemic and we’ve seen some fabulously creative examples aimed at attracting people back to the office.

However, great ideas alone will not necessarily resonate with those currently aged between eight and 23 and who are now the largest population demographic in the world.

Pic: Manny Pantoja, Unsplash

The future of work rests on the shoulders of Gen Z for by 2025 they will make up to 27% of the workforce and one-third of the earth’s population.

It must be that if real estate organisations can get to grips with this emerging generation – who seem to have higher expectations for the workplace than ever before – they can create places and spaces which put this future workforce at the heart, potentially increasing retention, improving reputations and developing overall business performance.

So, how can companies engage with, and better understand, their youngest workers and exceed their expectations?

We surveyed some real Zoomers to discover how they viewed the world of work.

1. Flexibility: Zoomers value the flexibility of remote work that became the new norm during the pandemic. According to a World Economic Forum report, 73% of employees now desire permanent, flexible work options and 90% of those we asked saw themselves travelling or ‘casually’ working in five years’ time.

So, the job of anyone who hires this generation is to keep thinking constantly about what would motivate them to stay with you long term.

2. Office perks. Gen Z is entering the workforce during a time of turmoil, a perfect storm of war, rising inflation, student debt, a housing crisis and now a recession.

It’s no wonder this difficult hand sees them demanding higher pay. Money motivates 85% of our responders to go to work and ‘freebies’ such as snacks, coffee and beer ranked highest when asked what they would find most attractive about an office environment.

It might be a surprise, but unlike Millennials, who favour small start-ups, Gen Zers seem to prefer working for a large, ‘prestigious’ company (90% of those we asked chose this over any other type of business).

Presumably this comes from the Covid experience (the pandemic was not kind to small businesses) and the expectation (valid or not) that large firms can offer the best perks alongside job security and higher wages.

More than 76% believe making friends, networking and finding a mentor are some of their biggest challenges

Gen Z: Making friends and networking are key challenges. Pic: redd-f, Unsplash

3. Career advancement: Despite a large percentage of Zoomers preferring to work remotely, more than 76% believe making friends, networking and finding a mentor are some of their biggest challenges.

Equally, 67% want to work where they can advance in their career.

It is crucial, therefore, that the real estate industry designs spaces which encourage collaboration and socialising and provide education & training opportunities.

4. Mental health support: Research suggests that Gen Z are the most anxious generation to date and all those we asked wanted better access to mental health resources, great leaders and a culture of wellbeing.

Companies must therefore design work environments that prioritise wellbeing. Mental health needs to be integrated throughout the whole building and programmes and policies need to value workers’ personal, as well as professional, mental health.

They require exceptional places

If Gen Z are to be welcomed to the workforce, they require exceptional places that prioritise flexibility, provide great freebies, encourage career growth and foster positive mental health.

At RealService we are passionate about getting the real estate industry to better understand their customers so for those interested in attracting, retaining and engaging young workers please get in touch.

About Gen Z: It’s accepted that Generation Z were born in 1996 or 1997. They succeed Millennials and precede Generation Alpha. The Pew Research Center in the US discusses them here.

About our survey: This was a snapshot of Gen Z friends and family members of RealService staff and consultants. Our independent Voice of Customer research can reach all your stakeholders if required, from strategic director-level studies to end-user surveys. You can find more information about our Insight services here.

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