Answering Gen Z's questions about the return to work: An inside perspective

Gen Z employee sitting at computer desk looking at smartphone after returning to work

I know you're probably tired of hearing words like COVID-19, global pandemic, and times of uncertainty. The good news is there's a light at the end of the tunnel. With businesses opening at full capacity, employees returning to work, and almost 50 percent of US adults fully vaccinated things are starting to return to normal. This past year has truly turned everything upside down and the world we live in will never quite be the same, which has brought up many questions for people now coming back to work. This is especially true for members of Gen Z who haven't had as much experience with the traditional pre-pandemic workplace.

I know I myself have many questions as UKG prepares to go back to the office. It's a continually growing list:

  • What are the policies we should be following?
  • Will masks still be required?
  • Can we eat meals together in the cafeteria?
  • Will 6 feet of social distancing still be required?
  • Do I have to go into the office every day?
  • What do I do if I'm not comfortable going in just yet?
  • Are all employees required to be vaccinated?
  • If I don't have an employee ID yet, how will I get in the building?
  • Where will my workspace be? Will there be a new office layout?

If you can’t tell, I’m a little nervous about adjusting to office life, as I really haven’t done it before — and I'm sure my other Gen Z colleagues are going through a similar wave of emotions. I’m most worried about the culture shock of working in an office setting after having been working remotely for the past year. So, what can organizations do to for employees going back into an office setting, especially those who may not have a strong idea of what "normal office culture" is?


Start with a communication plan

First, HR leaders need to have open and honest communication with employees. I may sound like a broken record since we've talked about this a lot over the past year, but communication is key when running a business. In order to establish trust with your workforce it's imperative to be transparent. This level of communication is something Gen Z values particularly highly according to our research. I know I always feel more supported when I'm in frequent contact with my manager and department leaders.

Establish your new office policies before employees return to work and communicate these new practices. This will ease minds and help prepare people for the road ahead. Decide how your organization should best communicate plans with employees. Strong HR technology often has the capacity to host a number of features to keep people safe and informed while keeping the business moving forward. These information hubs can help you to easily manage and track everything from employee communication and vaccines to COVID cases and contact tracing. With the ability to be transparent with employees and offer support through your HR system you can focus on what you need to do!

Measure progress with employee surveys

Many organizations are using engagement surveys to hear their people’s feedback and perspectives on the return to work. In order to successfully transition employees back to the office it’s important to know their concerns. These surveys give individuals the ability to voice their opinions and make themselves heard in the organization. It’s helpful for businesses to listen to employees’ concerns, so they can better tackle them! And when it comes to Gen Z, these surveys can also help you meet their desire for continuous communication and also help them feel engaged and like they're contributing to your return to work strategy.

Leverage learning technology

Another thing that's been a challenge for me this past year is my professional development. It can be hard to keep yourself engaged when you’re all by yourself. Businesses can implement learning technologies for employees to work on their skills and move closer to their goals. It's a fun and engaging way to work on professional development in a way that's self-paced and easy to fit in between the other preparation activities for the return to work. This also means you're offering more room for growth, making your teams stronger by getting them ready to move up in the organization.

Allow opportunities to socialize

Provide opportunities for socialization and networking! New hires haven't had a chance to interact with their colleagues much whether due to remote work or in-person social distancing restrictions, and Generation Z is craving that much needed personal connection. Social gatherings give employees the opportunity to further build their support group and aid new hires in meeting others within the business. It's also a fun way to welcome employees back to the office.

Conclusion: Take some quick steps to ease the transition for your people

Unlike 2020 when organizations had to abruptly close down and send workers home, this time you can take some time to have a plan in place that makes the adjustment of returning to the office go a little smoother. Start communicating plans as soon as possible to ease employees through this transition, and remember there's a lot of value you can get from using your HR technology resources to help you manage your organization's return.