Gen Z Worker? These Annoying Problems Are Why You May Be Hating Your Remote Job
As a new Gen Z worker, you may be excited about your first job out of school. You’re living the dream…right?
That first paycheck was pretty exciting, but now you’re exhausted, lonely, and confused.
Is this what work is? Is this what you have to look forward to for the next 40+ years?
Maybe yes and no.
For most people, working from home has been a transition. But as a Gen Z worker, it’s likely all you’ve ever known.
Navigating your first job out of school is tough enough. Then you add the extra challenges of working from home.
Remote work can feel lonely. Data shows that 60-67% of single, Gen Z workers who are new to their company feel like they’re only surviving. Ugh. Thriving is a distant dream.
Spending your days at work feeling this way is the nightmare I want to help you avoid.
I promise it doesn’t have to be this way.
Here are some problems you’re likely facing, and how to overcome them:
Problem #1: You work way too much
You may love your job. But you don’t love how it’s taken over your whole life.
You’re checking emails at brunch with your friends and preparing last-minute presentations on Sunday nights ahead of a Monday morning meeting.
Your days whiz past in a blur of meetings. And when you “log off” at night, aka reading emails from your couch with Hulu on in the background, it’s the first real break you’ve taken all day.
Basically, you’re exhausted all the time.
I get it – I hear this a lot from clients. Best case, you work for an organization that you believe in. You want to do everything to help their greater purpose.
But guess what?
That purpose will still be there tomorrow.
If this is one of your first jobs out of school, you’re probably still used to the school grind of assignments, papers, and exams — all aligned to the academic calendar.
But the working world doesn’t operate this way.
The work never stops out here, but you have to.
According to a Deloitte survey, 77% of workers have experienced burnout. That number is even higher for Millennials (84%) and 42% have left jobs because of it.
And since Gen Z workers hit the “hustle culture” Kool-Aid harder than Millennials, it means you’re on an even rockier road.
Don’t let early burnout force you to take a hit to your career.
There are steps you can take to prevent burnout. They work best when you protect your time.
Solution: Set boundaries around your time
Your time is a finite resource and your job isn’t paying you when you’re off the clock. Don’t give away your time for free.
1. Schedule breaks into your calendar
When you’re new to your job or in entry-level positions, you may feel like you’ve got no control over your calendar. The unfortunate truth is that may be the case. But it’s always good to check.
Chat with your boss about what their expectations are for your availability and what the protocol is for taking breaks. Once you’re in the clear — take your breaks!
Be sure to get up from your desk to get the blood flowing on a regular basis. Get away from your computer and phone. Breathe. Play with your pets, or water the plants. Get outside. Listen to music.
Just don’t engage with work – even a 15-minute break can revitalize your energy.
2. Don’t work in your off hours
Simple, but tough.
You may want to show you’re willing to go the extra mile by working more hours. But this message can backfire.
I’ve worked with many “overly responsible” employees who eagerly established their willingness to keep taking on more and more. Then they’re taken advantage of and find themselves resentful and burned out.
Don’t tell people you’re logging off but then keep working for another hour on “one more thing”.
At the end of your day, log off. Shut down your work computer if you have to.
You deserve and need time off to rest and recover.
Problem #2: You’re not making friends at work
You may not want to admit it, but you’re lonely.
Sure, you may chat with co-workers about projects and issues. But you never get more personal than knowing when people are “out of the office”.
Half the time you don’t even know why they’re out and people don’t talk about what they’re doing during their off-hours, so it makes sense you’re too uncomfortable to start asking about it now.
It’s no wonder you feel disconnected.
Your friendships outside of work are important for sure, but they’re not a replacement for making friends at work.
There’s a special camaraderie built between friends at work. One that can translate to lifelong friendships and your future career success.
A 2021 survey by Wildgoose found that having a work bestie made work more enjoyable, and productive, and boosted a person’s creativity.
So it’s time to…
Solution: Connect with your co-workers
In school, you made friends with the people you spent time with. That doesn’t change as you get older, so here are some ways to find your work bestie even when you feel like you’re one of the only Gen Z workers around:
1. Join or start a team “happy hour”
Take advantage of any opportunity to meet up with your team at least once a month to connect on a personal level, adult beverages are optional. Show initiative by suggesting things to do together.
You can do something like:
- Play icebreaker games
- Play an online game like Scattegories
- Attend a baseball game
- Play mini-golf
- Zoom around on go-carts
- Compete at ax throwing
All of these types of events can foster camaraderie and lead to better teamwork. Plus, you’ll score points with your boss by spearheading these activities.
It may seem silly, but having fun with your coworkers on the regular boosts morale. And who knows? You might even enjoy Sandra’s idiosyncrasies better after you both picked ‘mongoose’ for an animal that starts with the letter ‘m’.
2. Set up coffee chats
Don’t limit yourself to getting to know your immediate team members. Get to know other Gen Z workers and also look to engage with other leaders in your organization who may turn out to be helpful mentors down the road.
As remote work has become the norm, work social circles have shrunk. Your future work besties may not be the people you interact with all the time.
Ask your boss about initiatives in your company that provide the opportunity to work with others. Like participating in or organizing volunteer events. Or maybe there are informal training sessions where you can meet others and learn at the same time.
Casual coffee chats or informational interviews are a great way to expand your pool of potential friendships and are a great way to connect with all-important mentors. You’ll learn more about what other teams are working on and be ready for future collaboration.
This is especially helpful if…
Problem #3: Your manager sucks at communication
Hard to believe, maybe, but most managers were never trained on how to manage people. And they definitely weren’t trained to manage remote teams.
Managers are busier than ever. So unless someone’s not meeting goals, they often rely on their employees to bring issues to them.
If you’re smart and used to picking things up with minimal direction you may not reach out to your manager unless you really hit a snag.
You could be getting conflicting directions or none at all. Or worse, your manager withholds key information that drastically changes the scope of your work.
You can stay quiet about it, but then you risk your manager writing you off as incompetent or a “bad culture fit”. This could cut you off from growth opportunities and even lead to a dismissal.
Don’t sit back and wait for your manager to step up, it’s time for you to…
Solution: Practice “managing up”
Aka managing your manager. Is it technically your job? No.
But could it make you both better at your job AND more likely to get promoted? Yes.
Here’s how to make that happen:
1. Meet with your manager regularly
Make these meetings as upbeat as possible so your manager looks forward to them. Bring good news, not complaints. Be part of the solutions your boss is looking for.
If you’re not getting any face time with them, you’re not building a relationship. Schedule time to meet every 1-2 weeks if they aren’t aready.
2. Ask questions to anticipate needs
If your boss tends to spring last-minute assignments, ask things like…
…what other deadlines are approaching for our team? And if you see something that needs to be addressed, offer suggestions on how to get started.
…what projects are we putting on the backburner right now? And how can I help out?
…what is coming up for our team in the next 30/60/90 days?
Use the answers to prompt your manager into assigning tasks now but be careful not to push your manager in public. That won’t look good for you.
3. Get clarity on your work
Managers often operate from a place of not knowing what they know.
Meaning they don’t always communicate well with team members who don’t hold the same knowledge they do.
This translates to you not getting enough information and delivering work incorrectly.
Instead, explain what you think they want and end by asking, “is that how you understand it too?”
This will help you gain clarity and avoid having to redo your work. All without making your boss think you don’t know how to do your job.
4. When you have a problem, bring solutions
We can’t solve every problem on our own, but when you bring an issue to your manager, bring a few solutions.
And have an opinion on which is the best one.
They’ll be impressed by your proactivity. Plus, they’ll trust you with higher-level work in the future.
5. Follow up afterward
After your meeting, send a brief recap email. Detail any new goals or deadlines.
This helps ensure you’re on the same page as your manager. And it’ll make listing your accomplishments easier come review time.
You want to knock your career out of the park, but if your manager isn’t stepping up to the plate, you’ll be lost if…
Problem #4: You don’t have any guidance
You’ve been at your job for six months or longer and you’re starting to feel a little antsy, you wonder — what’s next?
Your family and friends love you, but they don’t necessarily have the best advice on how to advance your career. Like your grandfather who insists that dropping resumes door-to-door is the best way to find a job.
What worked for previous generations doesn’t suit Gen Z workers.
You need someone older and wiser to help guide you along your path.
It’s time for you to…
Solution: Find a mentor (who understands Gen Z workers)
With in-person mentoring opportunities drying up as remote work remains king, it’s not as easy as it once was to connect with a mentor.
Here are some ways to find a mentor:
1. Look within your organization
They may be harder to spot these days, but corporate mentorship programs still exist. Ask around to find out what programs are available.
If you don’t know where to start, think about your differentiating factors.
Perhaps you’re a woman, LGBTQ+, BIPOC, or disabled (or all of the above). Seek people in leadership at your company who share those qualities.
Read up on others in your company (try internal resources or LinkedIn) to find people with similar interests or career paths that look interesting to you.
2. Scour your alumni network
Just because school is out doesn’t mean it’s no longer valuable.
Check with your school’s alumni organization, because they may have a mentorship program. You may also find others at your company who attended the same college through this kind of research. Alumni are often open to helping other alums.
3. Local organizations
Find a local industry association and start attending events. This is a great way to establish a professional network.
You’ll connect with like-minded people in your industry who may be open to mentorship.
You can go even further by taking on a leadership role in a professional association. You’ll build leadership skills and it’ll give you plenty to talk about in future interviews.
4. Harness the power of LinkedIn
This ain’t a stuffy networking site anymore. Now it’s a hotbed of connection building where people LOVE sharing their knowledge. (I definitely do.)
Find those whose message resonates with you and you may just find a mentor. Be sure to join LinkedIn groups to stay up on your industry and topics of interest.
Engage with other people’s posts and start creating your own. These are a great place to share information and stories that show you’re an involved professional.
The reality of the post-pandemic workplace
Remote work has transformed the workplace and as a Gen Z worker, you’ve been getting the short end of the stick.
But you’re not alone and you don’t have to accept the issues you’re facing as unsolvable.
So here’s your hidden #5 — work with a career coach.
I’ve made it my job to help people like you find direction and navigate the challenges of the workplace.
Fill out my contact form and let me know you’re ready to take charge of your career. I’ll partner with you to so you’ll see how to navigate the curves ahead so you get where you want to with more ease and speed.