Gen Z will make up approximately 30 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2030, and they bring with them specific preferences for office life, including face-to-face co-worker interactions and open-office floor plans.
However, if you have Gen Z staff on your payroll, they may have only spent a very small amount of time working in an office environment before having to transition to working from home during COVID. Or, they may have joined your team as a remote worker and will be coming into your office for the first time as you open up again.
Either way, there are plenty of possibilities when it comes to supporting your Gen Z employees as they get used to being a member of a physical office-based team, rather than working remotely.
Set the tone for working together
With 60% of Gen Z professionals admitting to struggling with things like isolation, motivation, or how to collaborate with others, it’s up to employers to support our staff as some return to working in offices. While many are excited to get back to the office, Gen Z professionals may be unsure of what to expect. Many are not coming into the workforce with a working model of how things were done in the past.
Setting up informal one-on-one “meet and greets” with staff is a great way to gently communicate your ground rules. Talk about the best ways to request time off, timings for the start and end of the working day and preferred methods of communication. If an employee’s tasks involve face-to-face client meetings, state your expectations around how those are run too.
Remember that up until this point, your Gen Z staff may not have had many opportunities to observe their colleagues interacting in a physical environment. Empathy and concern are vital skills when it comes to showing your employees you value them. Take the time to notice how your team members are interacting and whether they seem comfortable. Role model what you desire to see in others.
Encourage time blocking
Getting used to working in an office with distractions can feel very different than working at home on your own. On the flipside, remote work allows for a huge amount of freedom when it comes to time management. In either scenario, Gen Z employees may not have much experience with strategies designed to help promote successful habits within regular working hours.
Encourage Gen Z employees to protect their time by blocking out specific hours to work on a particular task. You may want to use a shared calendar so everyone else on the team knows not to disturb someone if their time is blocked out.
Some staff may like to use noise-cancelling headphones or listen to music to get into a flow state where they can focus deeply on specific tasks. Let everyone know that you encourage these kinds of strategies, and ask your employees if they have any particular tips or tricks they would like to share with your team.
Establish weekly check-ins
If you used to make time for individual check-ins when everyone was working from home, continue that practice when in the office. If you haven’t set these up, now is a great time to make this a standard practice, not only for Gen Z workers but for everyone.
There’s a difference between checking in and checking up. As the authors of a Harvard Business Review article articulated so well: “Checking in is about collaboration; checking up is about suffocation.” There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how often to check in employees, but at least weekly is the minimum, unless more support is required.
Discuss the key priorities for the week, and if the answers seem either too vague or too broad then ask for clarification. “What are the top three things you must get done this week or you’ll be very disappointed?” is a good question to encourage focused targets.
Motivate with mentoring
Allocating the right mentor or an “onboarding buddy” can help your Gen Z team members quickly learn the informal ways of working that makes up your unique organizational culture. It also means they always have one point of contact they can refer to if they have questions or concerns. This shouldn’t be a one-way street, though. Encourage reverse mentoring, too. Your younger staff can also help more senior workers improve skills around newer technologies.
Modelling what a productive and healthy workplace looks like is a great way to show Gen Z employees that they are supported and valued. In turn, that will foster a sense of motivation and purpose towards meeting your business goals.