Gen Z at Work: How to Re-Engage Young Professionals

  • September 16, 2022
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Work has changed dramatically in the last several years, and so have how employees engage with their company, leaders, and work. Workforce trends that surfaced as short-term reactions to the changing world have become long-term shifts in where and how people work. Workforce changes have also redefined what employees value in a work environment. The macro-transformation, paired with the continual addition of Gen Z employees in the workplace — the most diverse and populous generation in the nation's history — presents organizations with a challenge to keep their employees engaged.

One of the critical shifts was the shift to remote work — a significant change in how we work. Organizations moved their businesses online, and employees were told to stay home. The realized benefits of this way of work caused a long-term shift in the workforce, with many companies remaining fully remote or offering hybrid options in the post-pandemic world. While an extra hour of sleep and the ability to work in sweatpants have their perks, in the long run, this shift has proven to affect Gen Z's engagement, satisfaction levels, and mental health. Studies have shown that over 80% of Gen Z workers feel disconnected from their work, and 50% report having communication issues and trouble getting the resources they need to thrive at work.

Due to loneliness and burnout, the work-from-home lifestyle deteriorates Gen Z's mental health, a key satisfaction metric for the generation. Organizations must be proactive in keeping Gen Z employees engaged and mentally healthy to avoid adverse effects. This article focuses on how the workforce shift has affected Gen Z workers and how organizations can adapt to keep their employees engaged.

Gen Z workers are feeling disconnected and uninspired

In a world where employees interact through a screen, it is hard to feel connected to colleagues and see the impact of their work. Peter Cappelli, a Wharton School of Business professor, argues that young employees have less engagement, less commitment to their organization, and more social isolation in a work-from-home setting. While studies have shown that 77% of Gen Z employees prefer a flexible work policy with the option to work from home, they miss the personal connections that are created in a face-to-face environment and feel that they are missing out on career development opportunities by not being in physical proximity of their co-workers and managers. Disconnected and uninspired workers harm the growth and experience of the employee and the organization's overall culture. Employees that do not feel connected to their work will ultimately not remain loyal to the organization.

Gen Z's mental health is deteriorating due to loneliness, burnout, and a lack of boundaries between work and home life

Young professionals are beginning their careers alone in their bedrooms. This lifestyle skews the line between work and home boundaries because when work laptops sit two feet from where a worker sleeps, are they ever not working? Young professionals tend to overwork and burn out more quickly at home than in an office setting. Paired with the loneliness that comes from working at home, the mental health of these young professionals is at significant risk of deterioration. Research suggests that Gen Z employees are three times more likely to have sought help for mental health issues like burnout and stress than their more seasoned counterparts. Mental health is a critical factor in an employee's success, which the work-from-home lifestyle threatens.

How organizations can keep Gen Z employees engaged in the new work environment

Gen Z differs from other generations; their work environment matters most. They seek a rewarding, flexible, and engaging company culture threatened by current workforce changes. Organizations must invest in a robust work environment to keep their employees engaged.

  • Health and wellness initiatives: Recent studies have shown that more than 60% of Gen Zs seek a company culture built on a holistic view of mental health and wellness. This generation values the emphasis on physical health, mental health, and even financial wellness. Creating a culture of wellness is critical in engaging and keeping these employees. Organizations should promote wellness initiatives that encourage a work-life balance, provide opportunities where employees can come together actively and give back to the community, and offer workshops and mentoring that inform and promote financial wellness. Focusing on these kinds of initiatives can continually engage young professionals and mitigate the damage caused by the overall work shift.
  • Flexibility in the workplace: Gen Z values flexibility in their work setting, but 7 in 10 also feel that socialization and connecting with others are essential. Getting young people out of their bedrooms to interact with each other is vital; therefore, offering hybrid work schedules is a sustainable solution to the changing work world. This option is essential to the generation — flexibility is what is valued.
  • Career development and fulfillment: One critical aspect Gen Z misses out on is mentorship and potential career development opportunities in a work-from-home environment. They also highly value a fruitful career that gives them a sense of purpose. A recent study shows that over 42% of Gen Z would work for a company that gives them a sense of purpose rather than one that pays more. Organizations should focus on individualized career paths that help employees feel that they are genuinely valued and working towards a goal. This generation is also known for its love for continuous learning. Providing opportunities to gain experience, learn new skills, and receive constant feedback is a productive way to engage employees and improve business results.

Workplace shifts will continue as society moves further past the pandemic. It is up to the organization to keep their Gen Z employees engaged by adapting to these changes and creating a constantly evolving and employee-focused workplace.

The rapidly changing workforce underscores the need for human-centric, digital-forward solutions for organizations in all industries. Our Workforce Readiness Consulting practice helps drive organizational success with future-focused talent and change strategies. Learn more about how we help our clients thrive on the human side of the business.

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Gracie Evans
Gracie Evans is a Business and Technology Consultant for NTT DATA Services, specifically interested in Workforce Readiness and Financial Services. She recently graduated Magna Cum Laude from Sewanee: The University of the South in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and a minor in Business. Gracie is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the NEXT Charlotte Social Board and is an active member of the NTT DATA Young Professionals group. She is a NEXT Practice Buddy, helping new NEXT consultants transition into their roles. In the future, she hopes to continue to enable her clients to adapt to the changing workplace while also bringing people together within NTT DATA Services.

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