As the novel coronavirus continued its rapid spread and caused worldwide lockdowns last year, every non-essential industry faced the same question: How does business go on from here?
But for retained employees, conference room meetings transitioned to Zoom, corner offices became kitchen tables, as virtually all responsibilities and commitments began being carried out online. Working from home became a necessary alternative. At the time, that’s all working from home was: a temporary solution until the curve was flattened and offices could reopen with in-person work resuming.
Now, however, there is a growing sentiment around many (virtual) workplaces that working from home could become permanent, with an S&P Global survey revealing 67% of participants plan to retain at least some positions as full-time virtual. Not only does cutting the cost of office space leasing make sense for cash-strapped companies devastated by the economic crisis that came with the pandemic, but there is evidence to suggest working from home has had positive effects, with employees recording greater productivity and job satisfaction.
As the job market becomes increasingly remote-based, one that demands more technical skill than ever, Gen Z is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the “new normal.”
Even before the pandemic, growing amounts of our society and societal interactions were occurring online. But in the past five months, that growth has only accelerated. While older generations are adjusting to having to spend increasing time behind their computers and on their phones, little has changed for Gen-Zers. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey revealed that 45% of Gen-Zers spend nearly the entirety of their day online.
Older generations and even millennials may counter that Gen-Zers being glued to their phones is not an asset, but there are transferable technical skills that can and will apply to the virtual workplace. If you’re a college or high school student, you’ve probably seen a professor or teacher struggle to conduct a virtual class, be it not realizing they’re on mute or forgetting to turn their camera on. For a generation that grew up on Facetime and Snapchat, the transition to video conferencing apps like Zoom or Skype has been seamless.
A remote work world will naturally place greater emphasis on collaborative platforms, including programs like Slack and Google Docs. Gen-Zers are no strangers to group chats and completing group projects entirely remotely. Students whose internships were transitioned online in light of the pandemic have also had the opportunity to become acquainted with a remote working world at the same time as established professionals, greatly leveling the playing field.
Even if you aren’t the most technically knowledgeable or skilled, Gen-Zers are the most equipped to find ways for self-improvement using solely online resources. An astounding 85% of the generation regularly use YouTube, a site that contains thousands of useful tutorials and tricks for just about any software or program you may encounter.
Beyond the technical skills gap, the differing circumstances each generation finds itself in also benefits Gen-Zers. By now, you’ve probably seen one of the many viral clips of a child accidentally intruding on their parents’ critical meeting or interview. These videos, while adorable, also highlight the legitimate difficulties of working remotely for parents of children who are being educated remotely or even home-schooled. And with many public schools continuing virtual learning this fall, and the distinct possibility of a second coronavirus wave shutting down reopening schools, Gen-Z finds itself better adapted to working unburdened from home.
During these uncertain times, a rapidly evolving job market that looks vastly different from the one Gen-Zers were told to prepare for is understandably stressful. But there are genuine benefits to a virtual working world. In the past, recent college graduates, encumbered by ever-growing student debt, have often been at a disadvantage entering the job market, particularly in high-rent, but also opportunity-rich areas, like New York City and Silicon Valley. In a remote working world, those economic barriers will be greatly lessened, providing greater opportunities for a young, diverse group of workers.
So young creatives: keep developing your technical skills, safe in the knowledge that your abilities are now more valued than ever before.