New Survey: 56% of Gen Z feels isolated at work

New research from Wisq finds that young people struggle with loneliness and layoff fears at work
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Today, Wisq released results of a national “Employee Workplace Perceptions Survey” of 2,000 full-time workers. The survey identified social isolation and the inability to have spontaneous conversations with coworkers as serious concerns for many in today’s workforce, particularly among Gen Z employees.

Gen Z workers (born between 1996 and 2012) will represent 27% of the global workforce by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum. Out of the Gen Z respondents in our survey, 46% work hybrid, 39% work from the office full-time, and 14% work remote full-time. It’s important to note that this generation joined the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, many experienced a rough start to their professional lives. Pew research showed that half of the oldest Gen Zers (ages 18 to 23) reported that they or someone in their household had lost a job or taken a cut in pay because of the outbreak.

Read on to learn about this generation’s current sentiments on the workplace.

Survey sheds light on Gen Z’s work experiences

Members of Gen Z are having a first-of-its-kind work experience since many joined – or hadn’t been working long – when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And it has been a mixed bag for them.

Fifty-six percent of Gen Z have experienced some level of isolation, 9% higher than the overall survey respondents. There are also some fears around remote work having a negative impact on careers, with 50% of Gen Z worrying employers will favor employees who work on-site – nearly 11% higher than total respondents. On the other hand, 44% of Gen Z respondents said they felt that their opportunities for promotion or pay increases had been positively impacted by working hybrid/remotely.

A yearning for connection at work 

Fifty-five percent miss the spontaneous work conversations that happened prior to COVID. When asked about the types of gatherings they would want to participate in, if their employer were to offer virtual ways to come together, Gen Z responded with the following:

  • 45% want to get to know unfamiliar coworkers they share interests with through a coffee chat introduction

  • 42% want to join spontaneous conversations about news and entertainment

  • 38% want to join virtual lunchrooms casually

  • 32% want to join a club around something like hiking, reading, or cooking, and

  • 28% want to join a group dedicated to talking about a popular TV show.

In a shaky economy, layoff fears persist 

When asked if Twitter’s recent layoff news and mandate to return to office is a signal that remote workers are expendable, 50% of Gen Z respondents said they worry employers will favor employees who work on-site – nearly 11% higher than overall responses.

And if the Gen Z respondents “survived” a layoff at work, what would they need in order to feel good about continuing to work at their company? Ultimately, they said they would need to feel like they were still connected to their company and coworkers. Thirty-five percent said they would need to feel like they still belonged at the company, and 22% would need the company to prioritize employee connections.

Gen Z strikes a healthy balance by taking breaks 

It can be difficult to take a break and replicate casual conversations in a remote or hybrid working environment. But when people do find the time to connect and take breaks, they are more likely to succeed at work. Research shows that employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 50% higher level of health and well-being, a 50% greater capacity for creative thinking, and a 30% higher level of focus. Gen Zers have clear desires for their future workplaces to provide social interaction and recognize their mental health.

When asked how often they take breaks at work, Gen Z demonstrated a healthy balance, with 68% saying they take a lunch break or a lunch break and a small break. Twenty-five percent said they take 2–3 short breaks throughout the day, and only 2% said they have back-to-back meetings all day long and rarely take breaks .

Wisq used Pollfish to conduct its “Employee Workplace Perception Survey” with 2,000 people who are currently working full-time and responded online on November 17, 2022. The margin of error is +/- 2.08%.

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