Corona communication #7: The impact of working from home on different generations

April 29, 2020


Charlotte Jacobs-Hoffman | Head of People & Culture

April 29, 2020


Let’s face it, secretly many of us hoped that last Tuesday Prime Minister Rutte had said that the measures would be relaxed and that we could partly go back to the workplace. Instead we were asked to continue to be patient. We miss our colleagues and are looking for something to hold on to. How do you keep employees motivated now that the door to the workplace remains closed for the time being? And what is the impact of this decision on employees of different generations?

Do not apply “one size fits all”

As an employer, it is important that you are aware of the differences in experiences among employees and that there is no “one size fits all”. Make sure that managers have “real” contact with their teams and each individual, so that they are aware of what is on the minds of their people and any concerns that they may have. For example, employees may wonder whether their job will still exist now that the economy is not doing well. To investigate this anonymously, consider sending a questionnaire to see what is going on among employees, how they feel, whether they have an optimal home workspace, [TK1] etc. Be open about the purpose of the study. Report the results and discuss them in smaller teams in order to clarify as well as look for practical solutions.

Address these points and try to communicate as openly as possible. Be sure to also indicate when you cannot provide clarity (yet), employees will understand.

Impact on different generations

This time brings new insights for many employees of different generations. For example, it is currently more difficult to be part of a physical group. This means that you have to switch to being part of a group remotely and this has a different impact on each generation.

  • Characteristic for Gen Z (born after 1995) is having fun in your work. They now face the question: how do you experience fun in your “own and limited” environment without having others physically around you, both privately and at work? Do digital tools such as video calling, app and chat groups, which now need to be used for an extended period, really meet their needs? Despite being digitally savvy, they miss physical contact. They are accustomed to everything going well for them[TK2] , but unfortunately now they have to deal with major setbacks over which they have little to no influence. As a manager, help your employees during this difficult period and see if it is possible to still have contact, but with observation of one and a half meter distance. Help them deal with setbacks and coach them in their personal development.
  • The next generation, Gen Y (also known as the Millennial, 1981-1995), may have just started a family and feels the pressure of combining childcare and continuing to perform at work. They prefer to perform both tasks perfectly, but is this possible? And more importantly, can everything even be perfect right now? You can also ask yourself this question as an employer or manager. It is about empathy and thinking along in new work forms and processes that you may never have thought possible.
  • Gen X (1961-1980), on the other hand, is now relatively more often involved with many care tasks, both as a parent and perhaps also as a caregiver. This double role in care can jeopardize work. How can they ensure that their loved ones stay healthy and they themselves remain as productive as possible? It is especially important that they discuss this with their manager to see what the possibilities are. For example, to take care leave or perhaps more flexibility in working hours is already sufficient.

Personal development

Employees are currently growing very fast on a personal level due to all the setbacks (in various areas) that they now have to deal with. Nobody can run away from the current problem, it is too big and affects everyone. As a manager, make sure you listen carefully to your employees. Frequent contact is of the utmost importance for all generations. Ask how the person is really doing and how they have received and experienced Rutte’s message. This way you know what is going on with them and how you can keep them motivated and involved. Get to know your employees and give them feedback and appreciation. This is important in this difficult time, perhaps even more so than at other times.

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels.