The post-COVID-19 professional environment: Generation Z and the place of business

The current global pandemic has had a profound impact on businesses and has dramatically changed the way people work. To prepare for the future, businesses of all sizes continue to adapt and find new ways to grow and evolve.

Telecommuting has removed much of the social and human side of the job, leaving many people eager to return to the office. However, this has not been the case for everyone: COVID-19 has certainly changed all professional interactions online, but this phenomenon could benefit the younger generations, who have grown up in a digital world.

As some countries begin to ease their restrictions on the outbreak, the time has come to look at how the place of the office will change for businesses. In recent years, we have explored the future of the professional environment, and conducted surveys of prevailing employee attitudes and trends. Let’s take a closer look at our results below, and find out how their employers can support the younger members of their post-pandemic workforce.

What place for the company?

The professional world of tomorrow will be markedly different from that before the pandemic. The past twelve months have given us an understanding of what we like and don’t like about going to the office. We had time to reflect on our established processes, to hone those that offer real added value, and to get rid of the others.

The main changes are the fact that COVID-19 has freed us from the shackles tying us to our desks and our daily commutes. One of the lessons for companies this year was that their initial worries about telecommuting productivity were unfounded. In fact, more and more companies are now considering maintain a hybrid model once the restrictions are completely lifted.

This approach combining remote and face-to-face work will offer more flexibility to professionals who have already spent a whole year working from home. However, this change raises questions about the place of the office in companies’ long-term strategies, and above all, about the real willingness of their employees to return once the restrictions are lifted.

Post-COVID-19 workplace attitudes

At the end of 2020, we surveyed over 6,000 office workers in small and medium-sized European companies to understand how the pandemic had affected their work preferences for the future.

Thesurvey provided important results about under 30s (which bring together the last millennials and members of Generation Z), which are the pillars of our future economies and societies. Our survey revealed that more than half of them consider that teleworking has made them more productive.

These returns are surprising when we consider how much Generation Z has influenced the company by adapting with ease to teleworking, a model adapted to their experience forged with new technologies from a very young age.

However, the most unexpected comeback from this generation concerns the need for real physical space in business. Thus, while they recognize the benefits of teleworking, young professionals still expect their companies to provide them with office space, and seem not to be in favor of a complete abandonment of the traditional workplace.

Generate commitment and put Generation Z in the best conditions

While Gen Zers are perfectly at ease in a virtual or physical environment, it’s critical that their employers give them the support they need to realize their potential. Sharp worked with Viola Kraus, a psychologist interested in the future of the professional world, to better understand how to provide this generation with the ideal conditions.

As you might expect, there are a number of aspects of telework that match the strengths of Gen Z. ” The virtual meeting room is theirs. In this context, hierarchical barriers are lowered, and Generation Z employees can express themselves freely.

The real comfort displayed with new technologies for working remotely does not necessarily mean that this is the sole preference of these young professionals. ” Members of Generation Z attach particular importance to the authenticity of the work-life relationship. So they need this social interaction, virtually and, when possible, face to face.

Employers must respond to the clear call from Generation Z, who want a work environment that is both virtual and physical, and conducive to collaboration and interactions. This generation represents the future of all businesses. It would therefore be wise to invest in technologies that promote collaboration and that are adapted to the preferences of these young professionals.