Many Gen Z workers have never experienced office life, and some believe they never want to, but researchers say this could adversely impact both their professional and personal lives.
A growing number of young employees are yet to experience working in an office. They landed jobs just as COVID-19 caused offices to close, or they graduated during the pandemic. Many of them – Generation Z in particular – don’t see themselves ever working in an office, with remote working becoming the default for some businesses.
Not missing what they never had is one thing, but surveys have unsurprisingly revealed that young remote workers are also feeling anxious and unmoored. And it is being argued by researchers that remote work could be harming the personal and professional lives of these same young workers who are missing out on the traditional work experiences that previous generations took for granted: mentoring from older colleagues, face-to-face interaction, the creativity that only in-person collaboration brings and potentially career progression. This remote working experience is also likely to shape these workers in ways which will have a lasting impact.
Working from home is, by its very nature, a lonely experience, so feelings of loneliness and isolation are to be expected, but according to Jeffrey Arnett, a professor of psychology at Clark University, young adulthood, the period between the ages of 18 and 29, is typically the “time when people spend the most time alone until you get in to your 70s.”
“You may not have a romantic partner, you may not see your parents so much anymore because you probably don’t live at home, and you change residences so much that that complicates having stable friendships,” say Dr. Arnett, who recognises that working in an office enables the natural development of relationships with colleagues, both friendships and through mentoring.
Remote workers could be missing out not only on these professional relationships but also on the opportunity to form friendships and even potential romantic relationships, according to Johnny C. Taylor Jr., chief executive of the Society for Human Resource Management.
“There’s something that happens when a group of us, say, ‘Hey, after work on Friday, we’re all going to X bar,’ and you go with a group, and there’s that dynamic,” he says.
Potential personal problems aside, remote working also presents significant professional difficulties for Gen Z. Concerns over the ability to establish a professional network are common for young people, says Mr. Taylor. This would be challenging for any remote worker, but particularly so for young people who have yet to establish themselves professionally.
There is also the issue of feeling out of the loop as a young remote worker. According to Dr. Santor Nishizaki, adjunct professor at California State University, Los Angeles, Gen Z workers are more likely to wonder about how they are perceived by their bosses and co-workers in the absence of consistent feedback. They are also more susceptible to impostor syndrome, a feeling of doubting one’s abilities and worrying unjustifiably about being exposed as a fraud.
While remote working might be all some Gen Zers have ever known, and whilst certainly hybrid working is here to stay, research certainly seems to suggest there is much to consider in terms of the long term professional and personal impact of working in isolation.
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