TopCV's survey of 1,000 UK professionals reveals what different generations want from today's workplace.

With more workers remaining in the workforce into their 70s and beyond, it's no longer uncommon to have as many as five different generations working alongside one another. While having a multi-generational team can bring huge benefits, employers need to acknowledge the differing expectations within those teams, from technology and tools to communication styles.

We wanted to learn more about some of these preferences and hear from professionals at all stages of their careers. To do so, we questioned stereotypes - from the assumption that older generations prefer in-person interactions to Gen Z being emoji-obsessed.

A survey across the generations:

We surveyed 1,000 UK career-driven professionals to understand what different generations want from a work environment, and how newer ways of working are impacting coworker relationships.

The generational groups were defined as follows: 

  • Generation Z (1997-2012)

  • Millennials / Gen Y (1981-1996)

  • Generation X (1965-1980)

  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

  • The Silent Generation (1928-1945)

We quizzed respondents on everything from their preferred work environment and how they like to socialise with their colleagues, to what motivates them most when choosing their next job.

Key findings 

Hybrid working was an important factor for all respondents. Nearly half (49%) stated that it was their preferred work environment. 

When we asked respondents how they felt about socialising with their colleagues both during and after work, the findings suggested that the post-work pint is becoming increasingly rare.

  • Generation Z workers (41%) stated that the only time they would socialise with a colleague would be at a work-related event.
  • Similarly, over one-third (39%) of Baby Boomers said they 'rarely or never' get together with work colleagues.
  • Those more likely to see a work colleague socially included The Silent Generation (37%), Millennials (35%) and Generation X (35%), who said they 'hang out occasionally for non-work activities.'

When we explored how team members like to meet and engage with one another during office hours, there was a clear preference for in-person interactions. In fact, one-half of all five generations (50%) agreed that in-person meetings were still their preferred method of communication when conducting meetings or group discussions. 

The results indicate that this may be because colleagues struggle to connect with colleagues remotely. When asked how effectively they were able to build relationships remotely compared to in-person, nearly one-third (31%) of Baby Boomers said they found it 'somewhat ineffective.' This was less of a barrier for younger professionals, with 31% of Generation Z and 29% of Millennials saying they could still build 'somewhat effective' relationships remotely.

7 ways to build effective relationships with colleagues 

While the flexibility of hybrid working is appealing, less time in-person means that fewer professionals have easy access to informal networking opportunities. Fewer watercooler moments may mean that professionals miss the chance to build meaningful connections and gain intel about upcoming opportunities which might propel their career. 

Here, we've provided some tips on building effective relationships with colleagues when working remotely:

  1. Schedule virtual coffee chats: Schedule regular virtual coffee breaks or lunches with a small group of colleagues or one-to-one. It's a chance to chat casually, just like you would in the office kitchen.

  2. Arrange one-to-one video calls: Initiate one-to-one video calls with various colleagues to get to know them better. It's more personal than group meetings and allows for deeper conversations. This also works well if you're interested in exploring other departments and positions within the company.

  3. Organise a virtual event: If your company doesn't sponsor virtual activities, consider organising your own event to get to better know your colleagues in a more relaxed setting. It could be as simple as establishing a book club, setting up a watch party or organising a virtual team-building event.

  4. Find common ground: Look for common interests or hobbies you share with your colleagues and use them as conversation starters. It helps in building connections beyond work-related discussions.

  5. Use instant messaging wisely: Utilise instant-messaging platforms for quick check-ins, sharing interesting articles, or sending kudos for a job well done. But remember to respect boundaries and not overwhelm your colleagues.

  6. Follow up: After virtual interactions, follow up with a quick message or email to express appreciation for the conversation or to continue the discussion further.
  7. Be patient and persistent: Building relationships takes time, especially in virtual settings. Be patient and keep making the effort to nurture your connections.

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