Organisational leaders need to carefully seek and consider Gen Y and Gen Z viewpoints in the workplace following the pandemic, according to Deloitte’s report on its 2020 Global Millennial Survey.
The report, based on the views of more than 27,000 survey respondents, concluded that “the viewpoints of Millennials and Gen Zs will be critical” when creating new and hopefully improved workplace structures whenever the pandemic recedes.
The survey report recommends that leaders:
- Promote dialogue with Gen Y and Gen Z employees, listen to their concerns, and strive to understand why certain issues really matter to them.
- Ask for input on how they can make the workplace more accommodating and flexible.
- Help employees prepare for the future by providing training and tools that enable them to succeed and to realise both their personal and professional ambitions.
In addition, Deloitte said that leaders should recognise the three-fold benefit to employees, businesses, and society at large of “purpose-led actions”. These include:
- Showing a commitment to making the world a better place for everyone.
- Demonstrating a purpose beyond profit, focused on the needed shift from shareholder capitalism to a broader stakeholder capitalism.
- Addressing climate change and implementing environmental sustainability programmes.
- Providing more opportunities for employees to be engaged in their communities.
- Ensuring diversity and inclusion across the business, and promoting compensation structures that reduce income inequality and create a fair distribution of wealth.
- Making employee mental health a priority for employers, if it’s not already. All employers should research and understand the root causes of mental health challenges amongst workers in general, and their own people in particular — and create or update programmes based on their findings.
Adapting to change
Deloitte’s annual Global Millennial Survey has been running for nine years, but in 2020 the survey had to adapt to changing circumstances — the emergence of COVID-19 first in China’s Hubei province and then globally.
Fieldwork for this year’s survey started in November and was followed by a smaller-scale pulse survey in a reduced number of 13 countries.
The pulse survey found that only a third of Millennials and 38% of Gen Zs said their employment or income status had been unaffected by the coronavirus. Despite this, the same survey also showed an eight-point fall in anxiety levels for both groups compared with the main survey, which had indicated that around half (48%) of Gen Z and 44% of Millennials were stressed all or most of the time.
So, what were some of the reasons for this surprising shift?
Ashleigh Lopia, ACMA, CGMA, who contributed to the August FM article “Generations Y and Z: What Do They Want?” said her stress levels “have reduced overall during the pandemic — with a short-lived spike when I started to go back to the office, which has now completely eased”.
The coronavirus has not affected her employment status. She has an ongoing role managing Network Rail’s 2019 finance graduate group, but lockdown restrictions in the UK that started in March made the transition to a local operations manager role within the company’s north-west and central region more difficult, she told FM.
“Training courses had to be delayed and, despite best efforts, I have found it more difficult to connect with my new team,” she said.
She explained that initially when working at home, her days were longer — the same for her immediate colleagues and her wider team as they adjusted to new methods of working, meeting, and connecting.
Since that point, Network Rail has encouraged staff to put greater emphasis on wellbeing. It created guidance for working at home, as well as dealing with loneliness, anxiety, and other feelings that employees might be experiencing as a result of being out of the workplace for so long, Lopia said.
Largely unaffected by the new remote working environment has been Ireland-based Christopher Devaney, ACMA, CGMA, a senior finance analyst working on Edge.AI at Intel Corporation. He said he had previously worked at home periodically, so the current situation hadn’t been such a radical change.
Like Lopia, his stress levels have decreased, aided by a cut to commuting and more opportunity to spend time with family. He said: “I would say that overall stress has reduced as a result of a conscious effort to improve work/life balance of which this ‘new normal’ was a catalyst for change.”
However, he points to other concerns: “We are all coping with living in a pandemic, worrying about our loved ones who may be at risk, wondering if it is necessary to go to the shops or safe to go out somewhere. We are constantly measuring risks of everyday activities which we never thought twice about doing before.”
Personal worries during the pandemic haven’t diminished Millennials’ concern for wider societal issues, according to the Deloitte research. Both before and during the pandemic the surveys showed that the top three concerns for Millennials are climate change and protecting the environment, healthcare and disease prevention, and unemployment. It is no surprise that, in the mid-pandemic poll, healthcare concerns moved to top of the list (selected by 30%) just ahead of climate change (29%).
However, for Lopia, the main concerns are unemployment and low-income households — those that have been impacted “on a greater scale by COVID-19 and [who] might not have access to or be as willing to access healthcare”, she said. “I think that the worst-impacted areas of society will probably be those who were already struggling before COVID-19,” she added.
Maintaining mental health
Devaney said his employer, Intel Ireland, has taken several steps to maintain employees’ mental health during the pandemic, including promoting a “mental health day” during Mental Health Awareness Week in late May. Other wellness initiatives have included virtual yoga classes and a week with talks and other activities to encourage employee health.
Devaney has also adopted a self-care mindset. “Working from home can lead to working longer hours as there is less separation between work and home life. I believe everyone needs to set themselves some boundaries on working hours, especially when operating with teams in different time zones,” he suggested.
He added that he tries to spread holidays over the year to ensure regular opportunities to recharge.
Network Rail also has several initiatives to support employees’ mental health, and Lopia said her manager is open to conversations about mental health and wellbeing. Lopia also takes time out with her graduates, on a one-to-one and group basis, to ensure that they talk about mental health regularly. “[I] am confident that they would feel comfortable approaching me if they needed to speak to me about their personal wellbeing or to take time off for stress or mental health,” she said.
— Oliver Rowe (Oliver.Rowe@aicpa-cima.com) is an FM magazine senior editor.