Remote work is a huge part of the current employment landscape, and it’s here to stay. The whole world is adapting to this new reality at the workplace and resulting shift in company culture. While there are many benefits to remote and hybrid work, there are also challenges, especially for entry level positions and Gen Z workers.
In 2022, 26.5% of U.S. employees worked remotely according to Zippia. This was down a small margin from 2021 (26.7) and a huge downturn from the pandemic work from home boom of 2020 (41.7%), but pre-pandemic, only 6% of workers were remote. Experts project that by 2025 there will be 36.2M people in the U.S. working remotely.
Managers and workers agree that working remotely has led to an increase in productivity, and 75% of employees report better work-life balance. With reduced stress and absences, improved morale, the benefits are undeniable; however, the challenges of remote work must be addressed.
Entry-level employees face the biggest challenges.
Gen Z makes up 12.6% of the workforce, and for many of them their first job experience has been remote or hybrid work. Remote work is especially difficult for entry level positions. Learning the culture and expectations is difficult without in-person interactions. There are many things that you pick up via osmosis in an office environment, that are now slipping through the cracks in the digital workplace. There’s no water-cooler to meet people who aren’t directly related to your job, remote workers are missing out on casual networking, a broader understanding of the workplace, and a sense of belonging.
Entry-level and new employees have to figure out their job through email, messages, and video and voice calls. This can result in miscommunication particularly with text communication, where new employees are left to interpret meaning, without the nuance or easy back and forth of in-person conversation. Only communicating through messages and email can also make the job feel very transactional.
There is also the burnout that can come with virtual meetings, making it harder to get the most out of casual, office morale activities that occur on video calls.
A hybrid office can be a great solution for some of these issues, and can be especially helpful for entry-level and Gen Z employees. Consider including in-office work days on a scale that makes sense for your workplace—weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or something else. Occasional in-person office bonding and morale events can help make up for the casual bonding that people can’t get digitally. Hybrid also is a great compromise for workers who want in-person and those who want remote work.
It is great to try to replicate online some of the organic connections that usually happen at your workplace. This could be a speed networking event on video, a morning coffee no-work-talk chat, or adding a buffer space on either side of meetings for organic conversation. Whatever events you want to introduce digitally, they should be high-quality and something that employees want to attend.
Mentorships are especially valuable for new employees, entry-level positions, and for Gen Z workers newly entering the workforce. Pair junior employees with experienced ones and include a plan for how the mentors will guide them and integrate them into the company culture.
The bottom line is remote work is here to stay and company culture needs to adjust to a virtual world. Now more than ever it is important to have open lines of communication, encourage feedback and not be afraid to try new ways to engage in person and virtually at your organization.