Return-to-office | Flexibility is all Gen Z has ever known - don't deter them with RTO mandates

Flexibility is all Gen Z has ever known - don't deter them with RTO mandates

By now, you probably understand Gen Z a little better than you did a year ago. We know that those at the start of their career operate differently in the market to any other generation. They prioritise the brand of their employer, flexibility and their own mental health, more than things like salary and perks.

Young professionals are also typically at a job for an average of one-to-two years before moving elsewhere, markedly different to their older peers, where it wouldn’t be uncommon for an employee to be at a company for ten-plus years.

This generation is an enigma to employers, many of whom are struggling to effectively attract and retain early careers talent. But if businesses don’t understand this generation, and quickly, they might be left behind – especially because Gen Z are set to make up over a quarter (27%) of the global workforce by next year.

Fear not, there are some obvious things you can do to be more attractive to younger workers. However, return-to-office mandates aren’t one of them.

It’s alarming that younger generations are being labelled as demanding when they ask for flexibility in the workplace – a LinkedIn study found that 72% of Gen Z workers left or considered leaving their job because of inflexibility – when flexible working is all they have ever known. Employers should forget this.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who came out of education during the pandemic. Not only was there a global health crisis going on, but employers were making unprecedented changes in-line with lockdown policies and COVID rules. A defining outcome in the workplace was, of course, remote work.

Additionally, many young employees not only joined a flexible working world, but experienced this remoteness whilst studying at college, university, or on their apprenticeship. Ultimately, flexibility around work is now in-built into the fabric of how these generations perform and approach work.

As a result, harsh back-to-office mandates – some have gotten rid of remote work altogether – alienate and disregard the needs of this generation, in a way more profound than for other workers. Simply wanting flexibility because it works for you, and demanding it from your employer, is still incredibly valid and should be valued. However, needing flexibility because it’s the only way you’ve ever worked, is another thing altogether.

That’s not to say that going into the office isn’t incredibly beneficial for those at the start of their career – it is. But the emphasis of this argument is on the word ‘flexibility’ and giving people the choice to do what’s right for them, especially if they don’t know any different.

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