Future of work

Gen Z proofing your hybrid workplace

In the last edition of the Office of 2023, we talked about the rise of the Chief Remote Officer as a ‘must have’ rather than as a ‘good to have’ profile in the post-pandemic hybrid workplace. We discussed the various aspects of this profile and the parameters of evaluation that an organization can leverage to know that it needs one.

In this blog, we delve deeper into another employee segment – the Gen Z workforce. One of the other set of key stakeholders in the office of 2023. This blog attempts to look at the workplace from their perspective: Why do they prefer what they prefer in the modern-day office, how can we engage them better and how can we thus Gen Z the workplaces of today.

Why ‘Gen Z’S love hybrid’ is only one side of the coin

“It’s not about the office, it’s about belonging. More than half of employees who left their job in the past six months did not feel valued by their organization (54 per cent) or manager (52 per cent), or they lacked a sense of belonging (51 per cent) [it’s clear that] employees want stronger relationships, a sense of connection, and to be seen.”

  • Bonnie Dowling, Associate Partner at McKinsey

To assume that Gen Z is a digitally native generation and hence ‘loves’ all things hybrid will not be the wisest assumption to make. It is true that flexible work arrangements have myriad benefits for them – work-life balance, improved retention etc., but data also indicates that Gen Z is not all gung-ho about hybrid.

Most of the Gen Z crowd has spent the last few years attending classes, and courses online, missing out on building key relationships that those before them have been able to build. It is no surprise then that many recent graduates and young workers prefer fully in-person work compared to those who prefer to work remotely or hybrid (PwC Report, 2022).

But then again, to throw the baby out with the bath water wouldn’t be right.

It is not hybrid itself, but poorly developed hybrid workplaces that are doing the real damage. And therefore, certain measures can help mitigate the shortcomings of the lack of personal networking and bonding associated with hybrid.

Five switches to turn on engagement and support switch with Gen Z in a hybrid workplace

  1. Engage them before their first day: Set the tone of their workplace journey by inducting them into the team right away. A regular line of communication after sharing the offer will be helpful. For eg., start by sending them a simple questionnaire, asking for information about their favourite things (beyond work) like snacks, hobbies etc. Personalized engagement is the key.
  1. Managers are the secret weapon: but don’t assume they know how to energize the teams. It is important to train them and give them a safe space for help. Continually reinforcing the idea that taking care of their people is their top priority will help them develop a stronger relationship with younger gen employees. There can be a generational disconnect, but with the right interventions, it can be ensured that they work together. Like technology, resources etc. For remote and hybrid workers, the role of a manager is even more critical. The idea is to develop an intention to welcome the younger Gen Z more openly.
  1. Encourage employees to build relationships. Human connections are critical for young employees who are remote or hybrid workers and may feel lonely. Connections can be cultivated by organizing mentorship programs, outings and organizing events that draw people together in compelling ways and allow young employees greater access to top leadership.
  1. Offer more engaging learning and development (L&D) opportunities. Gen Z workers are early in their careers and eager to learn. By providing training and resources personalized to each individual employee and their journey, you can better engage, motivate, and retain employees.
  1. Prioritize their diversity, equity and inclusion: Gen Z is perhaps more aware and more vocal about their rights, privileges and responsibilities. When an employer showcases their support for things that Gen Z holds close to their beliefs like sustainability, gender inclusivity etc. they feel more convinced about the organization’s overall openness to change versus just displaying openness through hybrid.

The tech that can help turn up the pace on these switches for Gen Z

If tech promises opportunity, flexibility, ease and inclusion, it will help attract the Gen Z workforce.

Below are some tech interventions through which tech can enable Gen Z at a hybrid workplace to experience the above-mentioned benefits:

A scheduling tool for L&D: to encourage participation, and carve out time in employees’ schedules for L&D. Through existing collaboration tools like Teams, Slack etc., managers can ensure that a certain amount of time of fixed frequency and duration can be organized for employee’s career development. Investing in Gen Z’s growth and development as an employee and as a person will play an important role in deciding their journey and tenure with the organization in the long run.

Leverage the “hotelling” trend: Hotelling refers to employees making use of a corporate booking system to reserve desks in their workplace, for a day at a time. The introduction of bench-style desks and hot desking is there to ensure that everyone has somewhere to work when visiting the office. The workplace can be designed to integrate Gen Z’s requirements from a workplace through a scheduled questionnaire.

One interesting insight is – people do love to work at different places depending on their mood, day, need and vibe. This is a very imp aspect in keeping desk bookable and open in various zones – silent, green, eco, sunlit, huddle, meet, call, zoom etc. this fosters creativity, reduces fatigue and makes the office a more vibrant place

We at Veris have a desk booking solution, that gives your Gen Z employees the flexibility to book a space when they want and where they want – Talk to our workplace specialist and get the perfect desk booking solution today!

Leverage locational flexibility: The managers need to evaluate the degree of location flexibility feasible for a Gen Z employee’s role based on tasks and activities associated with it. This can be leveraged to modify the work model offered. Talent sourcing practices can be adapted to source talent by location, not business location, for hybrid and remote models. Data dashboards can be created to understand the locational spread and the kind of work models best suited, basis these locational differences.

Here too we are seeing interesting work patterns where people want a hub-spoke model, want to work from HQ for a few days, but for functional and client meetings, prefer to book a venue close to a residence in order to save on the commute, get similar amenities and all extended by the organization. This can be ensured via curated spaces from coworking and cafes which can double up as your office extension. Employees get to book it all as if it’s the same office, with a single click and consistent experience.

Conduct training around policies to standardize language for candidate communications: Before the young talent joins and right after they join, for a certain period of time, managers should put in extra effort to ensure that they share the same language as Gen Z employees about concepts like work from home versus work from anywhere, residence regulations, duration of location flexibility etc. In order to do so, a special online induction training module can be shared in advance for candidates to get well acquainted with. When they visit the premises initially (before a permanent access card is generated in their name), some temp access to key common areas where they can connect with managers and other employees to know more about the on-campus process and practices can be provided.

Provide visibility to how inclusion and diversity are practised at the organization: for geographically diverse locations, leveraging employee experience on campus in diverse languages can be a good basic step to showcase that the organization appreciates diversity. Also, tools like late attendance that ensure the safety of women employees while working late at work, can be one of the simple steps that reflect how an organization is working towards inclusion and safety as a whole.

Download our case study to learn how Veris took care of inclusivity and diversity internationally for a BPO giant.

These are some of the sample steps that organizations can take to establish an initial connection with a young and diverse Gen Z audience.

‘Work the talk’ is an initiative by Veris that empowers businesses to co-create workplaces of the future. In this podcast series, we talk with industry leaders to gain insights about the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities impacting workplaces across industries.