While graduation always signifies an exciting foray into the unknown for young college students, this May will mark the third year of COVID commencements. Having spent half of their secondary education logging into video classes and dealing with pandemic disruptions, the newly minted alums will embark on their careers. 

Unlike previous generations, Gen Z’s new offices might look very familiar to them. With plenty of jobs still offering remote or hybrid workweeks, many new grads may find themselves sitting down to work at the very same desks where they did their school assignments. While many employees expressed a preference for working from home even after the pandemic subsides, the younger generation may feel isolated and fatigued, having spent their youth in front of a screen.

How does Gen Z really feel about committing to a remote career? Are there benefits to allowing new grads to work from home? Most importantly, how can employers set up this latest generation of the workforce to thrive?

From Virtual Students to Virtual Employees

Defined as the generation born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z is known for their digital prowess, social wokeness, and – now – for having a significant part of their young lives uprooted by COVID-19. With the oldest Gen Zers now turning 25, the past two years represent a significant part of their adulthood, and their experiences are shaping their career expectations.

While they might be the first “digital native” adults, Gen Z is ready to come out from behind their computers. In fact, only 36 percent of Gen Z prefer remote work over going into the office, compared to 62 percent of boomers and about half of Gen X and millennials. While their older colleagues are established in their careers, Gen Zers want to form essential working relationships in ways that just can’t happen online.

There may be a common misconception that Gen Z doesn’t want to work, but that’s not true. Instead, having lived through two formative years of a pandemic, they seek a meaningful balance between their careers and personal lives. Forty-two percent of Gen Zers would rather work for a company that gives them a sense of purpose over a company with higher pay. 

If they feel they aren’t deriving fulfillment from their jobs, they won’t hesitate to seek out new opportunities; the same study found that 65 percent plan to stay for less than a year in their current position.

As the newest generation of employees enters the workforce, it’s important to recognize their unique needs and concerns, distinct from those who have come before. By 2030, Gen Z will make up a third of the U.S. labor market. As more and more Gen Zers come of age, they will be the ones defining business in the future.

Pros and Cons of Letting New Grads Go Remote

Sixty-three percent of LinkedIn professionals indicated to Mitel that businesses should allow new grads to work remotely, sparking an interesting discussion about some of the challenges facing young employees in the modern workplace. Here are just a few of the positives and negatives raised.

Pro: They know how to navigate remote environments. Without a doubt, Gen Z is well equipped to handle virtual work. Graduating into a labor market with more remote jobs than ever before, they have a disproportionate level of experience conducting themselves in digital spaces. In school and internships, they have proven they have the self-motivation and time management skills to be trusted to complete their tasks at high levels with minimal supervision.

Con: They miss out on crucial real-world experiences. No amount of education can substitute for practical, on-the-job learning. Many roles have aspects that cannot be performed 100 percent remotely, and even those that do could benefit from in-person supervision. It’s easy for a live supervisor to catch a small mistake as it happens, but it can be very difficult to correct in-the-moment errors from a distance.

Pro: Location doesn’t matter. The proliferation of remote work means graduates aren’t limited to applying to jobs in their area, and they don’t have to worry about relocating somewhere new. This allows them to apply to a wider range of positions matching their skills and can build careers with companies that might otherwise have been out of reach. 

Con: It’s difficult to build relationships remotely. One of the key challenges facing Gen Z is loneliness: Nearly one in four people under the age of 25 said they feel lonely in their jobs, and 44 percent don’t have friends in their workplaces. Traditionally, office workers spend a significant part of their days networking, but opportunities to socialize are far less spontaneous for remote employees. In remote positions, it’s much more challenging to build the mentorships so crucial to shaping fledgling careers.

Pro: Living expenses may be lower. In a challenging economy, faced with high inflation, record housing costs, and staggering student loans, remote work offers new grads the opportunity to take jobs in markets they may not otherwise be able to afford. By living with family or roommates in areas with lower costs of living and minimal commuting expenses, Gen Zers can save money while still building their careers.

Con: They may feel left behind.
In any job, many junior employees may not realize they’re making mistakes, or they might feel uncomfortable asking for help. Ongoing training and support are important parts of every role, but without the solid foundation of a trusted mentor, some new hires might be unsure of what to do next or even what it looks like to succeed in their position.

How to Support New Graduates in Remote Roles

Every company wants their employees to thrive, and while there might be some challenges unique to this new generation of workers, there are many ways to support recent graduates in their careers. In a recent interview with Channel Chat Media, Daren Finney, Senior VP of Global Channels at Mitel, offered some good advice for supervisors looking to set their youngest team members up for success. Here are some of the tips he offered.

  1. Foster important relationships early. From experienced mentors to casual work friends, building a community within your company is important for employee happiness. Finney suggests companies make it as easy as possible for new hires to interact with their peers with collaboration and communication apps with video and chat so they can seamlessly connect when they need to.
  2. Set clear expectations – and metrics for achieving them. It’s not enough to establish key performance indicators (KPIs), noted Finney. Supervisors must also guide their trainees through the process of reaching their goals. Using hybrid work solutions with task tracking, shared workspaces, and instant messaging provide junior employees and their mentors with concrete ways to track progress and clarify responsibilities.
  3. Provide technology to equalize experiences. In the interview, Finney pointed to his own phone as an example of a way technology has made his remote work feel more like the office. For positions relying heavily on phone calls, like remote customer service or sales, a physical IP VoIP phone identical to the ones used by their in-person colleagues helps ensure everyone feels equal.

Are you looking for more ways to help new employees succeed in your company? Contact Mitel to learn how to implement the Gen Z-approved collaboration solutions for your needs.

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