A ‘Destination’ office:  a fast track solution to engaging and retaining Gen Z

With the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicting that Gen Zers will make up 27% of the population by 2025, this cohort of young workers is a key demographic and rich source of talent for skills-starved employers. In a competitive talent landscape, paying attention to the wants and needs of this group beyond financial remuneration can reap measurable rewards.

There is an interesting paradox at play here. As so-called ‘digital natives’, these individuals are extremely tech savvy and you would expect them to lead the remote working revolution. And you’d be right, to a degree. Indeed, almost three quarters (73%) of the office workers we surveyed in our Europe wide report – ‘Generation Z and the lure of the office’ – said that they have no problem collaborating remotely.

Social networks

However, almost four in five (78%) acknowledged that it is easier for them to bond with colleagues when working in the office. Indeed, 81% of employee respondents in the 18-34 bracket felt disconnected from colleagues while working remotely, a number greater than any other age group. It is worth noting too, that many in this group will have been recruited and onboarded remotely. Following graduation and the swift start of the pandemic, they may have never experienced office life, and if they did for a short while, the pandemic would have cruelly intervened.

So, what is it about the office that has such appeal to Gen Z? The three factors cited as lacking in a remote world of working were social interaction (35%), missing colleagues (30%) and not having the opportunity to collaborate (21%). Interestingly, 80% said that they would be more likely to head for the office if they knew their colleagues would also be there, further reinforcing the power of team bonding for this generation.

Remote working, for all its advantages, has also had a detrimental effect on some people’s mental health. The ‘Zoom fatigue’ phenomenon and isolation that many felt, particularly those living on their own, cannot be overlooked when considering what working style is best for the future workforce. In fact, a survey by Deloitte found that 44% of Gen Zers had to leave their jobs because of burnout and even though the majority (53%) felt that companies were talking about wellbeing, they were not taking concrete steps to improve the situation.  

Radical rethink

The benefits of a return to the office are clear to see. However, what is also apparent from our data is that the current office set up is simply not up to the task for the 88% of Gen Zers who indicated a desire to change the workplace. Respondents said that they wanted more outside space, greater room for social gatherings and bigger, collaborative spaces. The majority (81%) would also prefer to have separate spaces for collaborative work and quiet work, areas where they can focus on tasks which require minimal noise. Enhanced amenities such as fitness studios, breakout areas and free bars/canteens are all also welcome additions to the office structure for Generation Z.    

It is evident that employers need to cater for a blend of open and flexible working combined with the creature comforts of home, but that’s not the only flexibility Gen Zers desire. 83% of respondents also indicated that they want to have flexi starting times, while eight in 10 stressed the importance of having access to training in the office.

So, what have we learned from our next generation of business leaders? Firstly, we cannot underestimate the importance of the office as a location for in person socialisation where innovation and creativity can thrive. And especially for those starting out in their careers, the opportunity for coaching and mentoring is priceless. The office allows for that precious on the job training that you simply cannot replicate at home.  

Secondly, it has provided an opportunity for employers to reconfigure their office spaces, which in itself acts as a powerful recruitment and retention tool. But they must be smart about what employees really want. Gen Z places value on a culture that puts their personal and professional development first, where they can be trusted to work flexibly where they want.

Home time

However, as our findings also reveal, few individuals want to be in the office full-time. Two thirds of those surveyed are now enjoying a hybrid pattern of work with a similar number saying that they want this to be the norm in the future. Any redesign of the workspace must factor in these lifestyle and working preferences to ensure that people can make the most of their time in the office, while also ensuring those working remotely can seamlessly connect with their peers in the workplace.

Those employers whose offices are suitable for the future of work will have a comparative advantage when it comes to boosting talent attraction and employee engagement. This will translate into greater retention and loyalty with a happier, more fulfilled and productive workforce.

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