Gen Z is beginning to enter the workforce, possibly changing the office as we know it. But who is this new generation and what do they expect from the workplace?
Born after 1995, Gen Zers grew up witnessing their parents struggle during the Great Recession and knew little of the world before 9/11. Often called Digital Natives, they are so accustomed to technology that some say they learned to swipe before they learned to walk. They are the most ethnically-diverse generation in the history of America, and despite sometimes being referred to as Post-Millennials, they are considerably different from the generation born between 1980 and 1994. Better multitaskers, yet less-focused, independent, yet reluctant to assume risks, tech savvy, yet not so eager to communicate, Gen Zers are expected to outnumber Millennials by 2019.
In an attempt to better understand this generation, we conducted a survey, asking Gen Zers all around the U.S. about their ideal office layout, the biggest productivity issues, what makes them happy at the office, what amenities they’d like to have access to, whether or not working in a more sustainable office is important to them, and how they interact with their coworkers. We also asked them for a few personal details about their age, employment status and field of work. Keep reading to find out what you can do to make your workplace more Gen Z-friendly.
Gen Zers Crave Privacy, Preferably That of Their Own Home
Just like Millennials, in the age of open-plan offices Gen Z values privacy. In this new survey, 62.5% of our respondents said that privacy is of the utmost importance in the workplace. Moreover, when asked about their ideal office layout, 38% said they want to work from home and a close 37% opted for a private office. On the other hand, only 13.5% chose the open-plan office.
It comes as no surprise that the Digital Natives want to work within the comfort of their own home. They know that contemporary technology allows them to stay connected with their coworkers and complete their daily tasks no matter their location. Letting your staff work from home can have several advantages for you as well, one of the most important being the fact that you have access to talent anywhere in the world.
This generation craves independence and would rather work alone. They believe in the saying “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” but this doesn’t mean they can’t work within a team. They just need a little push, and this is where good managers come in. Be sure to encourage your younger employees to collaborate when teamwork is needed.
Noise Is the #1 Problem at the Office
Despite the benefits of an open-plan office, such as collaboration, flexibility and transparency, this layout comes with its own issues. When it comes to the factors that have the highest impact on their productivity, 43% of our respondents said their workplace is too loud. Interruptions from their coworkers and the lack of privacy were the runner-ups.
Trying to keep noise levels at a minimum, especially in an open office, might seem like an unsurmountable task. However, there are a few things you could do to improve your current situation and help your employees become more productive: provide them with noise-cancelling headphones, sound proof the common areas, such as kitchens and game rooms, invest in some wall partitions, and create designated quiet rooms where your staff can retreat when they have to work on an important project.
Personalized Space Equals Happier Employees
Gen Zers want to be treated as individuals, which is why they are passionate about hyper-customization. From products to ads, they want everything to be tailored to suit their specific needs. The workspace is no different. Out of our employed respondents, 60.5% said the possibility to personalize their space is what makes them happy at the office. And we all know happy employees are more productive employees.
Allowing your staff to bring plants, unique collectibles, framed photos, personalized stationary, or customized coffee mugs to the office will not necessarily change the overall aspect of the workplace. However, it will make them feel like they belong, boosting their motivation. The best part about this is that it can go a long way without becoming disruptive.
Forget Game Rooms, the Way to Gen Z’s Heart is Through the Stomach
Packing meals, waiting in long lines for their lunch, or trying to figure out which restaurants have the best food and the fastest delivery is a hassle Gen Zers don’t want to go through. Around 49% of our respondents chose snack/food options and free coffee or tea as the most important office perks.
Some companies, especially big tech names, offer this benefit as part of fostering an employee-oriented culture. Google, for example, has 56 food options and 37 coffee bars at Googleplex, its corporate headquarters in California. Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter and LinkedIn also have canteens where their staff can enjoy an extensive variety of food and beverages.
Healthy meals can improve your employees’ mood and keep them productive. Energy-packed superfoods such as salmon, avocados and bananas give them the boost they need to keep going throughout the day. Hot drinks like coffee and green tea can help fight off mental fatigue.
Gen Zers Want to Work with Companies That Share Their Values
Often thought of as the generation that will save the environment, Gen Z believes in causes like recycling, climate change mitigation, animal rights and alternative energy. Our survey reiterates this fact: 44% of respondents said that working in a green office is important to them. What does this mean for you as an employer?
This generation can go as far as boycotting brands whose behaviors do not align with their values. If you want to attract and retain Gen Z talent, consider working towards a more environmentally-friendly office. You can start by getting rid of those plastic cups near the water cooler, investing in reusable silverware and plates, going paperless, and encouraging green commuting and recycling.
Communication Is Key, but May Prove Challenging for the Younger Generation
While Gen Zers are known to be tech savvy, good multitaskers and fast learners, communication might not be their strong suit. They have learned to avoid social pressure by keeping to themselves and prefer working alone rather than with a team. Thus, conflict resolution might prove even more challenging when dealing with this demographic.
Our respondents agree that some behaviors, such as leaving a mess in the common room and taking other people’s food from the fridge, are unacceptable at the workplace. However, a staggering 78% of them said they have never confronted a colleague about such habits. Moreover, 47% would leave the workplace if they didn’t get along with their colleagues—a big number for the generation that seeks stability.
When trying to remedy this problem, managers should consider offering training sessions focused on the development of soft skills as early in the onboarding process as possible. Also, they should deliver messages face-to-face and provide regular feedback to their younger employees. Gen Zers no longer want to keep communication online, as Millennials do, and look for constant reassurance that they are on the right track.
Getting to Know Our Respondents
We conducted a nationwide survey of 406 respondents, asking them about their ideal office space, the factors that impact their productivity, their preferred amenities, and their interaction with coworkers. We defined Gen Z as those born between 1995 and 2008. All survey respondents were over the age of 18, born between 1995 and 2000.
For creating the survey, we used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and the survey platform SurveyMonkey. The number of respondents needed for it to be relevant was calculated using SurveyMonkey’s sample size calculator. We used Census data for the population estimate, a 5% margin of error and a 95% confidence level.