Generation Z and the Pandemic: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Impacts
The tremendous impacts to everyday life brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt by every demographic, no matter how we slice up the American population. Regardless of age, sex, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, income level, shoe size—you name it—the pandemic has upended normal routines, rituals, and relationships.
But just because the pandemic has affected everyone, doesn’t mean it has affected everyone in the same way. One of the jobs of a manager, DEI or HR professional is to be aware of the different ways in which diverse members of the team may be impacted by events around them. There are plenty of examples and lenses through which to explore this topic—parents of school-age children, low-income remote workers with limited home office budgets, seasonal and temporary workers, etc.
Gen Z Facing Workforce Hurdles
The oldest members of Generation Z were born in the late 1990s. While it might feel like the 90s was about ten years ago, that actually means the first batch of Gen Zers are now in their early- to mid-20s, meaning many have recently left college and are just starting their careers. And this cohort has not had an easy entry into the workforce.
One can imagine the unique challenges of starting a new job entirely remotely and missing out on valuable face time with coworkers and managers as well as informal networking and mentorship opportunities.
The results of a recent survey by Microsoft that looked at trends of the hybrid and remote work environment bear this out further.
Feelings of Isolation Drive Need for Inclusion
Gen Z, many single and at early stages of their careers are more likely to feel the impacts that COVID-related isolation has created according to the survey. They are more likely to face challenges related to motivation while working at home—and many don’t have the financial wherewithal to set up home offices for maximum efficiency.
According to the survey:
“Survey respondents reported that they were more likely to struggle balancing work with life (+8 percentage points) and to feel exhausted after a typical day of work (+8 percentage points) when compared to older generations. Gen Z also reported difficulties feeling engaged or excited about work, getting a word in during meetings, and bringing new ideas to the table.”
Everyone is feeling some kind of burden and impact from COVID-19 and the changes it has forced to everyday life. For Generation Z, those challenges often have to do with greater isolation and increased difficulty in establishing valuable connections early in their careers, among others.
DEI and HR managers can play a critical role in terms of helping managers and supervisors to appropriately engage—and include—remote staff now and even after the pandemic has subsided and many are able to return to the workplace. Your workplace is diverse in many ways. Your approaches to your staff need to recognize, adapt to and address those differences.
During the isolation that the pandemic has brought about it’s more important than ever to be inclusive!
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