When the pandemic hit and workplaces found themselves at home and logging on, no one seemed to be worried about the youngest group of employees. After all, where the other generations of employees would be described as digital pioneers having to adjust to new technical ways of working, the youngest generation are truly digital natives. They don’t know a world where they haven’t been able to log on.

Research did show that the younger generations didn’t skip a beat and were indeed able to show up on screen as easily as in person. Leaders were likely right in focusing on more seasoned employees and getting them comfortable with Zoom, Meetings, etc. However, where leaders have made a mistake is to continue to assume that the youngest employees are thriving in a virtual environment. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Research also shows that of all the generations struggling in a virtual environment, it’s the youngest. It seems logging on was never the problem – it’s once we were all working virtually that they started to struggle.

In this realization, there might be one of the biggest tips in getting employees to return to the physical office. 

Think back to how most of you got ahead in your careers. Sure, you had to do exceptional work, but many times you just so happened to be at the right place – at the right time.  Maybe you were at a meeting and when it was over, you overheard leaders talking about a project. You insert yourself in the conversation and the next thing you know, you get to work on a high-profile project. Maybe you sat near some leaders in the cafeteria and they mentioned a new client they were landing. They included you in the conversation and because you had something to contribute, a few weeks later you were promoted to work with the new client. Or maybe you were hanging out at the water cooler and after talking about the latest on Netflix, the group talked about the new strategic plan and positions that were going to be created. You instantly let your boss know you are interested and best of all, you got a first crack at the job. In all of these scenarios, you got opportunities just because you were around and could get noticed. It’s been referred to as “building social capital.” 

Everyone’s done it… until now.

Now think back to how work has gone down since the pandemic. On a good day you turn on your video. However, we also bet there’s never been a day where you just stay on a video call to “hang out”. When a meeting is over, you can’t hit “Leave Meeting” quick enough. Realizing this, stop and think about how hard it would be for a new employee to casually hear about a new project, a new client or even a strategic plan. In other words, it has become next to impossible for the youngest employees to get any social capital. 

As we mentioned, this might be a new opportunity to get employees to come into the office. Can you create scenarios where the young employees can have casual FaceTime with leaders? Maybe a brown bag lunch where the bosses share what they are working on and excited about? How about a speed “dating” game where the new hires get exposure to those that they just can’t get in a Zoom?

So what’s the lesson? As you try to configure your new workplace to encourage employees to come into the office, we think one of the most important features to focus on is the proverbial watercooler.  

Until next time,

Brian + Ben

Monarch CRE

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