The A-to-Gen-Z of workplaces: Setting up for young employees

Gen Zers will make up 27% of the workforce by 2025, and as with all generational tribes, they bring with them a unique set of insights.

This is the age group that have never known a time without the internet; who’ve shared their life milestones on Instagram and now move to the beat of Tik-Tok trends. Their appetite for digital is unprecedented. Globalisation and economic uncertainty have been a constant thread, but thanks to a lifetime of search engines, they are armed with information and have an expectation that any questions (why not all?) should be answered.

Now that their entry into the work market is in full swing, they look set to transform it radically.

Business leaders want to attract this generation’s unique perspectives and talents, so understanding what they want from their work environment is key. The new whitepaper from Regus, another leading workspace brand by IWG, titled ‘A World-Changing Generation’, sets out exactly what Gen Z expects from the workplace.

“By better understanding Generation Z, we can begin to understand what the future holds for business,” says IWG CEO Mark Dixon. “It’s a future of flexibility – in terms of where we work, how we work, and how we collaborate with others. And it’s a future that’s already begun.”

Suburbs over city centres

Arguably the most marked change from Gen X and Millennials is that Gen Z don’t feel the need to move to the capital cities to find the best jobs. No more sofa-surfing, less renting tiny box rooms that cost the earth – this generation can work from anywhere, whether that’s a tropical beach or a suburb.

What’s clear is that they definitely don’t want to be held pointlessly to a nine-to-five in a traditional office. Gen Zers are focussed on productivity, rather than presenteeism. As Dixon points out, these digital natives are hybrid natives, for whom the concept of ‘working from anywhere’ is as natural as breathing.

“If they’re asked to go to an office, they expect to be given a very good reason for doing so,” he says. “What are the benefits for them? How will it help them to be more productive and to advance their careers? This is a generation that wants to do things their own way. And that means companies can’t expect them to suddenly become nine-to-fivers in a traditional office.”

According to the Regus survey, 85% of Gen Zers want to work in an office close to home – and that’s likely to be in the suburbs because that’s where most of them can afford to live. We’ve seen first hand the rise in demand for Spaces offices in suburban and rural areas, and increasing our offering in those locations is a key part of our work over the next few years.

High performance tech

Gen Zers are digital natives. They’ve made friends online, found partners online, had parties online, and many of them have also probably started their working lives online. They are comfortable making human connections through technology and so they are naturally drawn to companies that both enable and drive their tech forward.

A Gen Z survey by Dell found that 80% of respondents want to work with ‘cutting edge’ technology in the office, while 91% said the technology offered by an employer would be a factor in choosing between job offers. Bad or unreliable technology can also have a greater negative effect on Gen Z than on older generations, according to Marcie Merriman, Cultural Insights and Customer Strategy Leader at EY.  “For them, the idea that things don’t work, or they’ve got to try and make them work, is the fastest way for them to become frustrated and for them just not to participate,” she says.

Agile work environments

Seas of grey desks and cubicle farms stretched out across entire floors feel quite strange for most of us now, but it’s a particularly foreign concept for Gen Z. They want flexible work environments to fit with their immediate needs – whether that’s big group work, a private meeting for learning and mentorship (Gen Z is also big on self-improvement), or a relaxed space free of tech, noise and bright lights.

Offices should be agile by design, as well as being able to inspire conversations and build a strong sense of company culture for the days employees collaborate in person. As IWG chief executive Mark Dixon says, they need “large, open meeting rooms where team members can brainstorm, long bench tables that encourage group working, and lounge spaces where colleagues can sit and chat over a coffee”.

Modern flexspaces offer these opportunities, as well as the chance to meet people from other companies – helping Gen Zers to grow their professional networks. They can also move between offices, depending on travel plans or where they happen to be that week.

Environmental and social responsibilities

Another thing that sets Gen Z apart from their immediate predecessors is a very personal sense of environmental and social responsibility. They have grown up in turbulent times, and that’s left them with a strong sense of ethics.

“They have experienced more change in their brief years than most generations experience in a lifetime,” adds Merriman. “And not only have they experienced all these turbulent events, but they’ve had to digest them more completely, because of their access to all of it through digital technology.”

In a world where they have felt little control, the one thing they can do is choose to work for a company that fits with their social conscience. According to the Regus study, almost half (48%) of our survey respondents said they would refuse to join a business that doesn’t have clear environmental and social goals. As well as sustainability policies, they may also ask if the management hires diverse people. And whether these people are enabled to work in a way that works for them?

Flexspaces allow for an individualised approach as it gives people the room to build their own working lives. It also works from an environmental perspective by cutting out unnecessary commuting and ensuring that space is fully and properly used.

What is abundantly clear is that while Gen Zers are fledglings in many respects, they also have much to offer in terms of skills and ideas, right from the outset, and that deserves to be utilised. As well as being the digital natives, they are also the hybrid natives, and a flexible and personal approach will enable them to work at their very best, helping businesses harness their talent and insight.

Don’t forget to read the full white paper to find out how flexspace are key for recruiting, retaining and unlocking the potential of Gen Z.

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