Depending on your age “Let’s hop on a video call,” can either be the most welcome or most dreaded words you hear while working through a pandemic. In fact, for those not used to working from home, this whole sheltering at home while working from home thing can be more of a challenge to some. “While working remotely was a leading business trend before COVID- 19, it turns out that the younger generations had it right all along,” said Mark Roberts, CMO of PGi.
Younger generations have this thing figured out
But wait a minute, didn’t we all read about how millennials are the new slackers? Apparently, this working from home thing is proving otherwise in a big way. “We conducted a recent survey that found aside from their desk, the No. 1 place workers of all ages are most productive is at home,” Roberts continued. In fact, “The younger generations are – and the remote work movement itself is – having their moment, with work from home flexibility becoming the great leveler across all working generations.”
Remember to relax
Along with that flexibility comes other challenges as well. Like how do you unwind at the end of a long day if you’ve been home for that entire day?
“Since Millennials and Gen X/Z are used to working from home, they are realizing the value of rest ethic/taking time off, so they aren't getting as burnt out or overwhelmed,” explained John Fitch and Max Frenzel, co-authors of the new book, Time Off (out in May). “However, Boomers
are used to having the distinction between going to work and relaxing at home, so they are having a harder time incorporating a rest ethic into their new way of life.”
For that reason, it’s important early in the game to create a work and rest demarcation. Maybe it’s the 9-5 thing, or maybe it’s deciding not to read or respond to work-related emails after 6:00 pm or before 8:30 am or the time that works best for you. But try to remember that working from home shouldn’t involve being in a work mindset 24/7.
Intergenerational collaboration is key
“While so much has been debated about the working generations and how their styles differ, we’ve actually seen the opposite,” said Roberts. “Workers across generations are embracing the idea of collaboration and the tools needed to stay connected.” And that means that even if we’re all theoretically working from home, we should still work as a team. “Younger generations should keep in mind that there may be a learning curve for their colleagues who didn’t grow up around technology. One suggestion for older generations – that’d be us Gen Xers and Boomers – is to extend an olive branch to younger Millennial and Gen Z colleagues and flip on your webcam during your video calls. Your younger
colleagues want more interaction with you, whether it’s working remotely or in the next cube.”
High tech/high touch
While it’s easy to posit on what we think each generation will do, it’s not quite as black and white. “We know that Gen Z loves technology, is highly motivated by efficiency, and expects technology to be entirely intuitive. We see this all the time with our younger users,” explained Andrey Kuhsid, CEO of Miro, a company that provides a virtual whiteboard for remote teams and serves 80% of the Fortune 100. “Gen Z’ers also crave human interaction: they are looking for highly functional, simple-to-use tools, as well as a mechanism
for human connection.”
Here’s another thought- when working from home, dress as though you’re still working from some sort of a professional space. That means wearing something clean, professional, and presentable (at least from the waist up!) and combing your hair or doing your makeup. That not only gets you in the work mindset, it also prevents any panic if someone requests a last-minute Zoom meeting.
Find a middle ground
For people not used to working remotely, it can be weird to try to manage your workflow when no one is in the same place. “While it’s important to be intuitive to tech natives like Gen Z, it’s equally important to understand the importance of not leaving less tech-savvy collaborators on teams behind,” Kuhsid said. “The best collaboration tools are powerful but really simple to use. They also enable power-users to switch seamlessly across common platforms like JIRA, Slack, or Zoom.” Try to spend some time talking to all members of the team before setting up your own shared platform. It’s possible that everyone loves or loathes the same app.
Despite a general work slowdown across many industries, “Millennials are still hustling, with the creative and “unrealistic expectations” that fueled the tech boom” according to Kuhsid. The flip side is that “They are also most likely to be struggling with decision fatigue right now. This is the generation grappling with child-minding, grocery sourcing, work schedules, and a side hustle, and they need some focus and leadership.” Interestingly enough, Kuhsid said that “With this group, it is important to overcommunicate.” Go figure. “Siloed communication without documenting decisions can delay a project, as unfocused teams scramble to get everyone back on the same page.”
Understand each other’s differences
The main takeaway is that our work styles really do reflect our generation. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing. And if we all want to remain productive and successful, we have to figure out how best to work collaboratively. “Boomers have different work expectations and aren’t digital natives and thus, they need thoughtful onboarding in terms of remote tech tools,” Kuhsid said.
Another positive finding is that “Many of our learnings about remote working aren’t specifically generational – there are lots of commonalities across generations.” In the end, “Different team members across generations have very different ways of working. The key is to be able to adapt to these different styles.”