09 Mar 2021

‘Failure to launch’: younger workers need in-person contact to thrive

  • Research from Nationwide and Ipsos MORI shows six in ten of Gen Z and half of Millennials want to have face-to-face time with colleagues
  • Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos says full remote working may hinder the younger generation establishing a professional identity
  • But it’s all about balance: over half of Gen Z and Millennials want to work at home at least three days a week
  • Half of Gen Z and four-in-ten Millennials say working from home puts pressure on their health and wellbeing

Younger workers need more time ‘in person’ with colleagues than any other generation, as new research from Nationwide and Ipsos MORI reveals the toll lockdown has had on them.

Published just as lockdown measures begin to slowly wind down, the research shows six in ten Gen Z (58%) and half (49%) of Millennials say they need to spend time with colleagues face-to-face in order to carry out their work effectively.

However, while some want to return to the office, the desire for blended office and home working is clear: 62 per cent of Gen Z and 56 per cent of Millennials want to work from home at least three days a week after the pandemic has passed.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos, launching the findings in partnership with Nationwide, said younger people are missing out on a range of workplace phenomena – from coffee catchups with colleagues, corridor conversations and socialising after work. In young adults, this means potentially missing out on the chance to establish professional as well as personal independence.

Half (50%) of Gen Z and 43 per cent of Millennials who are currently working from home at least some of the time, say that doing so has put undue pressure on their health and wellbeing. More than half (54%) of Millennials also say their overall mental health has worsened during the pandemic.

A lack of physical presence also has an effect: just under half (49%) of Gen Z and 55 per cent of Millennials feel under pressure to perform at their best when working from home.  With the furlough scheme now due to end in September, half of Gen Z and Millennials (47% and 52%) are concerned about their job prospects over the next six months.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos said: “One of the most important developmental milestones for young adults is establishing a professional identity and as such, work opportunities and professional relationships play a huge role in this. COVID has taken away the opportunity to have that crucial in-person and ad-hoc contact that helps build a professional identity. By virtue of the fact that we are communicating only on-line communication has become more purposeful: and while this may be useful in some cases when it’s the only way we communicate we miss out on the social and professional benefits of informal catchups where one could float ideas, get advice or indeed build informal mentoring relationships.

“On a positive note however, young people have a natural thirst for this and will be a driving force as we enter a new world of work – bringing energy to collaborative workspaces or traditional offices. It will be very different to what we’ve experienced so far, but it will give people the control to shape their work-life balance in ways never seen before. It’s great to see Nationwide championing a flexible working approach on where and when their staff work, by helping them to find a work pattern which balances their work and life.”

Jane Hanson, Chief People Officer at Nationwide, said: “Covid-19 forced a sudden switch for all of us. Within a matter of hours everyone who could work from home was faced with navigating video calls and lack of contact across a full five-day week with the added intensity of no face-to-face in person social contact. As this has been far from the usual circumstances of working from home there have been challenges across all age groups, but younger workers in particular have faced either significant job losses or struggled to work away from senior colleagues.  

“While it is too soon to say what a true hybrid of remote and office-based working will look like, it’s clear that there is huge opportunity for a better work-life balance. Throughout the pandemic, the wellbeing and mental health of our people has been at the centre of everything we do, and the things we’ve learnt during the pandemic are ones we should not forget.”

Technical note: Ipsos MORI interviewed 2208 people aged 16-75 online between Friday 8th - Tuesday 12th January 2021, and data have been weighted to the known profile of the UK population.  For full details please go to http://www.ipsos-mori.com/ or contact billie.ing@ipsos.com

Notes to editors

Nationwide and wellbeing support

The wellbeing of our people has always been a key focus for the Society and has been even more so important as we faced into the challenge of Covid-19 and the changes to work across admin sites and branches.

The Society has a range of support and tools available to help colleagues manage their own wellbeing, and that of others too. This includes:

  • Making space – Teams Meeting free zones
  • Make connections – build connections with those outside the groups we interact most with at work (remotely while lockdown in place, then ideas like socially distanced walks together
  • Wellbeing initiatives throughout lockdown - sharing stories and experiences across the Society, from every level of the organisation
  • Mental Health and Wellbeing support app, Unmind, given to all colleagues for free at the start of the first lockdown