Give Gen Z the meaning, satisfaction, and happiness they need from their workplace
For two years prior to the pandemic, we were already conducting research on Gen Z and their experiences at work. Our mission was to learn as much as we could about their values, desires, and expectations. We hoped to narrow down their broader interests, while also getting more in-depth answers about what is important to them.
For our most recent round of research—now post-pandemic—20 Haworth interns sat down for interviews with our research team to share their experiences at work, how they perform their best, and the ways in which their organization and office environment can further support their work and engagement.
For Gen Z, It’s Personal
As we compared our pre-pandemic research against this new round of data, many of our initial findings were reaffirmed. One thing that immediately jumped off the page—now, even more than before—is that Gen Z workers are placing an emphasis on deriving personal meaning, satisfaction, and happiness from their jobs.
As the pandemic upended their world, forcing Gen Z to go fully online for their education and even their first jobs, it gave Gen Zers the chance to reevaluate what’s really important to them, what gives them purpose, and how to translate those needs into a career.
One intern said, “I would like to join an organization that focuses on empowering employees, rather than just relying on them as workers. I want a company that demonstrates care for their employees—wanting them to enjoy their work, have good lives, and be happy people.”
These feelings were also reflected in Gen Z’s demands for an organizational culture that is friendly and where coworkers are highly supportive of one another. As psychological safety becomes more important in the workplace for stress reduction and mental well-being, Gen Z strongly seeks cultures that emphasize compassion, empathy, and vulnerability, while encouraging employees to be themselves.
Additionally, Gen Z has a great desire to continually learn new things and develop themselves, both personally and professionally. They seek an organization that will invest in them, help them pursue their goals, and provide a work environment where they can be their best selves. Of course, this isn’t only beneficial for attracting and retaining top Gen Z talent. It is also a recurring theme in how to create a workplace that empowers and engages all employees.
What Gen Z Looks for in the Office Environment
We asked Gen Z about their ideal office environment and what may have changed in their opinions of the physical workplace post-pandemic. Their answers remained largely in-line with what we had previously learned: Freedom and flexibility remain king—even more so now than prior to the pandemic.
Gen Zers seek environments that provide them with ample choice in workspaces, with a variety of options that offer amenities and tools for the different activities they do. This doesn’t mean scattering individual workstations everywhere. Instead, offer a mix of both open and private spaces for various needs, ranging from individual work to larger team meetings.
Interestingly, we also found Gen Z has a desire for an assigned desk or space for the days they are in the office. In fact, 89% of our respondents said they wanted a space to call their own or keep their personal items. While there may be less need for paper and file storage in the digital era, people still have a need to store their stuff—even if those items are only a travel mug and a bag.
This desire for personal space also appears to be related to the demand for user control, which is increasing for Gen Z—especially now, as a tool for dealing with high workplace demands and stressors. They want the ability to quickly adjust their chairs, desks, orientation, and other elements within the immediate environment to maximize their personal comfort and support. A high level of user control also empowers people to feel like the space is theirs while they are working.
From a visual and aesthetic standpoint, Gen Z seeks to be inspired by an environment that enriches their lives and their work. Elements like biophilia and natural lighting were frequently mentioned by our respondents as important for creating a healthy and empowering workplace. New employees clearly recognize the value these aspects bring to a work environment and how they benefit mental health and well-being. For instance, there is a greater resistance than ever to enclosed and box-like spaces with no windows or access to natural elements—as young people are seeking to live full and well-developed lives, with the workplace serving as an important tool to help them reach new heights.
Ultimately, showing proactive support for Gen Z through cultural practices and investment in a workplace environment that aligns with their expectations signals an organization is one young employees want to be a part of—one that will help them develop in their careers, do great work, and achieve their goals while living good lives.