Updated: Sep 21, 2022
#RTO (Return to Office) was trending this week on LinkedIn, as workplace swipe-card data from Kastle Systems showed the highest in-office return rate since the pandemic began in 2020.
Although noteworthy, it's important to call out that the recent number is just barely over half (55%) of what pre-pandemic office usage was. The study found that the two most common days in office are now Tuesday and Wednesday, and only 47.5% of the firms indexed across the top 10 US major cities were in office 5 days a week. (per Forbes)
Return to office has drummed up headlines for over 2 years now, and it's still clearly evident that US workers really value their remote work flexibility.
Remote Work Trends Continue
A survey conducted by PwC found that 73% of corporate executives stated remote work has been largely successful to their business, and 72% of those in the same survey responded that they would like to continue working from home for at least 2 days a week if corporate policy shifts.
36.2 Million Americans (22% of working Americans) are expected to be working remote by 2025. an 87% increase from before the pandemic.
Another survey from Global Workplace Analytics found that 56% of W2 workers, (~estimated 75 Million employees) would choose to work fully remote if given the choice.
The majority of firms bringing employees back full time have been within the financial services industry, primarily within investment banking and asset management. These firms typically offer less flexibility and are fundamentally rooted in the tradition and relationships the industry was built on.
However Wall Street does not set the agenda for the entire landscape of Corporate America. There is still a massive shift happening in front of us when it comes to how we go about our work, and more importantly, how many of the younger working generations view their work.
Gen Z's Career Journey
I'd like to first drop a clip from Gary Vaynerchuk discussing what I believe to be a very critical point into what is going to make the competition for young talent even more scarce in the workplace.
The world we live in today is so incredibly different than the one so many grew up in. Information and technology have radically shifted the amount of opportunity accessible to anyone who seeks it.
That's a good thing.
18-22 year old kids have more choices than ever before on how they can earn a living. And even better yet, they have choice in doing work that aligns more to their interests and passions.
It costs nothing to upload videos to TikTok and YouTube. Building an audience, and the distribution of information to that audience, is free. It's certainly hard work, and by no means is it for everybody, however there are more people than ever before who are documenting their passions, generating authentic followings, and in doing so are creating their own path to earning a living.
This also coincides with the rise of "gig-working" - working several part time, flexible jobs such as Uber driving, tutoring, video editing, blogging, Facebook marketplace reselling, etc.
With these alternative ways to generate a living wage, many in Gen Z are questioning why they would work in the often-times mundane, and boring entry level roles in corporate America that often time restrict their freedom, creativity, and time to pursue their true interests and passions.
Now I know what you might be thinking.
But those aren't REAL JOBS. No one can actually sustain that - they'll grow up eventually and need health insurance!
Maybe. Maybe not. It's too early to truly tell. But I can tell you this - it's not as crazy as you may think.
Capturing Young Talent
Now, I'm not saying that no one is going to be hiring Gen Z because they make TikToks all day and don't want to come to work. However this will have an effect on how employers sell themselves to young talent in the workforce.
Gen Z is radically more critical of their work environment than any generation before them. According to research done by Great Place to Work Gen Z is:
32% more likely to leave than millennials
2 times more likely than Gen X
2.8 times more likely than boomers
Millennials walked so Gen Z could run when it comes to job-hopping. The data suggests that this job-hopping movement likely comes from the lack of purpose they find in their work. So far, Gen Z has scored historically low to the survey question, "My work has special meaning." (Only 69%)
Employers MUST find a way to concisely communicate to their potential Gen Zers the impact that they can make from their work. Additionally, they must continue to offer genuine interest in what their workers value from their career. Failure to consistently and openly share this desire with their Gen Z workers will ultimately result in them walking out the door.
It's also important to add how remote and hybrid working fits into Gen Z entering the workforce.
Gen Z's Return (Entrance?) to the Office
Most of Gen Z are coming from an atypical college experience- dealing with fully remote classes, online exams and delayed graduation ceremonies. They entered the working world through Zoom. They're used to living through the internet. A study from HealthMatch found that Gen Z averages 10 hours a day actively online.
And now, they are being asked to re-enter a completely different work environment. For many in Gen Z, this is not a return to the office. This is an entrance.
According to the American Psychological Association, more than a third of Gen Z Americans reported their mental health is worse than it was a year ago. It is widely reported that Gen Z is also the most stressed generation of all time.
Between going through their formative years in a global pandemic, the rise and attachment of social media and comparison of their peers, the heightened awareness to geopolitical and social issues, and being the most affected generation over the last few years in job layoffs- there is a lot for Gen Z to wrestle with mentally.
Companies will need to focus on gaining the trust of Gen Z employees. Offering things like free mental health counseling, mental health days, and flexible remote working options will be non-negotiables in order to win the battle for young talent in the workforce.
And maybe some cool Trendy TikTok videos too.
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