As a leader, navigating the pandemic has presented enormous challenges. The number of decisions, new protocols and policies have left many in a state of overwhelm. What a wild time to be alive! However, as the world slowly begins to adjust to what is often coined as the “new normal”, CEO’s, Business Leaders and Researchers are all beginning to explore what the future of work will look like moving forward.
Some interesting research is coming out about the distinct differences among the generations in preference, perceived risk, and challenges. Many organizations had seen their workforce’s transition with relative ease to remote work. In the early days of the pandemic we saw article after article talking about the stabilized productivity of employees. Work continued to get done. We even saw some larger companies implementing more permanent work from home policies. Where we work seemed to be transforming in front of our eyes.
As the pandemic rolls on, we are beginning to see that the virtual work environment may not be as great as we originally thought for everyone. For example, our youngest workers, those in Gen Z are at the beginning of their professional career, seem to be suffering the most. Learning office etiquette, how to navigate office politics, build important relationships, find mentorship are all much easier in person and almost impossible virtually. Being isolated at home behind a screen has this generation feeling disconnected, lonely, and unsure of how to fulfill the “first job experience” they have heard about from generations before them. This generation seems to be craving opportunities for human connection with proper safety precautions.
Then you have the Millennial and Gen X Generations. These groups tend to be the most concerned about safety standards. They are also likely to be raising young families and have the added stress of caring for children, limited childcare options, and educating their kids while trying to work. Sick and leave policies seem to be important to them. They are also likely to be climbing the corporate ladder and the upheaval in combination with additional workloads are coming at a critical point in their careers. Only time will tell the lasting effect. We are seeing a large number of women in these groups exit the workforce in staggering numbers. Those that remain tend to be responding to working from home well compared to the other generations. Perhaps the added flexibility is really the only feasible way they can be an employee, teacher, care giver, parent, personal chief and whatever else the day calls for.
Finally, we have the Baby Boomers. Paradoxically, this group seems to be the least concerned about the office safety risks and is statistically most impacted by COVID-19. It should be noted that generally this group tends to be in higher seniority roles where they have more influence over policies and has more flexibility over their own work. Like the Gen X group, they are also anxious to get back to the workplace. They typically enjoy face to face meetings and prefer them to staring at a screen all day. Baby Boomers have also reported feeling isolated because of working remotely.
So, what’s a leader with a multi-generational team to do? The first step is to become aware of the different needs you have on your team. Have you checked in with each member on your team and asked the question? You know, the “how are you…really” question? This is a complex issue and there may not be a one size fits all solution. When thinking about what your workplace looks like in the future, it most likely will not look like what you left behind in March. This is a great opportunity to innovate, to rethink what the office environment is. You can create one that uniquely fits your business. The consistent need across all generations is flexibility. Providing opportunities for your entry level people to develop those critical first job skills, find ways to safely connect people in person and allowing for remote work when needed seems to be like a winning formula. Every team and every company is unique. If you find yourself back in that state of overwhelm thinking through what your teams’ future of work looks like – reach out to us! We’d love to help you come up with a solution that works for everyone on your team. Let us take some of the burden off of your shoulders so you can get back to leading.