HR Strategy

Gen Z likes hybrid more than older workers. How should that affect HR strategy?

Gen Z is the least likely to favor “exclusively remote” arrangements, according to Gallup data, but one pro says it’s important not to read too much into generational preferences.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

At this stage of the “great work-from-home experiment” that began four years ago, it has become apparent that Gen Z workers are more amenable to office work than their older colleagues.

Recent data from Gallup further bolsters our understanding of this trend, as remote-capable Gen Z workers surveyed in Q1 of this year were more likely to favor hybrid work than millennials, Gen X, or Baby Boomers.

These findings can help HR teams understand how best to support employees—particularly younger ones—in a hybrid environment. But employers shouldn’t read too much into generational preferences when designing a hybrid work strategy, Ben Wigert, Gallup’s director of research and strategy, workplace management, told HR Brew via email.

How Gen Z feels about remote work, and what it means for HR. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of remote-capable Gen Z employees reported they preferred to work in a hybrid environment, according to Gallup’s quarterly survey. This is a higher share than their millennial (60%), Gen X (58%), and Baby Boomer (56%) counterparts.

About one-third of respondents from each older generation said they would prefer to work in “exclusively remote” arrangements, whereas 29% of Gen Z responded this way. Onsite was the least favorite preference of all workers surveyed, though Boomer employees were most likely to say they preferred this option, with 10% responding this way.

The reason Gen Z is least likely to prefer exclusively remote work is because “they need time onsite to learn how to work effectively within their organization, build relationships, and feel like a part of the organization’s culture,” Wigert posited. These “younger workers value opportunities to learn and grow from those around them, and find it easier to navigate their career ropes in-person.”

Go your own way. Despite generational differences, Gallup’s data shows remote-capable workers overwhelmingly prefer a hybrid arrangement to anything else. When developing a hybrid strategy, Wigert cautions against reading too much into data on generational preferences, given “there is far more variance in how people feel about remote work within any given generation, than there is between generations.” To make hybrid work, he suggested HR pros consider the following:

  • Individual preferences: Ask workers “what they need to be successful and what work arrangements enable their best work.” From there, you can design a hybrid schedule that works best for the team as a whole.
  • Autonomy: Gallup research shows teams work best when they can set hybrid schedules and guidelines collaboratively, Wigert said. “The most engaging hybrid approaches bring the team to agreement on what they can expect from one another, so they can collaborate effectively while offering a reasonable amount of personal autonomy,” he said.
  • “Flexibility within a framework”: There should be clear expectations on “when people need to be in-person or available to one another,” Wigert said. At the same time, hybrid policies should allow wiggle room for employees to adjust based on their “performance needs and workstyles.”
  • Consider the type of work being done. “Independent task work” is typically more suited to remote flexibility, while “interdependent teamwork” can benefit from time in-person, he said. At the same time, this is one area where it’s worth taking Gen Z’s needs into consideration, as their preference for hybrid work “suggests a little more time in-person likely benefits them as they’re getting started in their careers.”
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