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The days of ‘office jobs’ are over – why we need a generational reset

Marcus Beaver, UKI lead - Alight Solutions

What even is an ‘office job’ anymore? We’ve adopted widespread hybrid and remote working since the pandemic began, and it shows no signs of slowing down. There’s no doubt that opinions have changed and the age of ‘office jobs’ is beginning to shift. Presenteeism is no longer such an issue and efficiencies are higher than before, the world is slowly adapting to a new age of work. Employers must start a narrative with their staff to understand their needs to get the best out of them – all whilst keeping productivity and happiness at an all-time high. Companies do not have to sacrifice their businesses; they just need to be understanding and accommodating wherever possible.

Where did it all begin?
The term white-collar, coined by Upton Sinclair in the 1930’s, referred to workers who didn’t perform manual labour and typically wore white shirts. The term itself is now outdated, as people who work in office jobs wear lots of other colours and clothing items. However, we still understand what it refers to.

Prior to the pandemic, an office job with a daily commute was a reality for many. With the restrictions, people were forced to isolate and rely a lot more on technology to stay in constant communication, especially at work. People had spent decades working at a desk and suddenly learned about the possibilities of remote working and the freedoms it provided. To relinquish all that knowledge for the same reality we lived in sounds a big ask

It’s clear we are witnessing a big change in the jobs market landscape, but it would be remiss to blame it all on Covid. It simply accelerated the process. People want to continue working from home, even if just partially, after we fully emerge from the pandemic. We can’t blame that on the virus. It’s a change of mentality. We have been exposed to different circumstances and have a new outlook on life.

Gen Z with a new outlook
Generation Z, who succeeds Millennials, are slowly entering the workforce. With them, a wide range of fresh perspectives and ideas on what the working life looks like. If Generation X was known for their sense of loyalty, this fresh batch of workers have a completely different vision of their lives, highly influenced by digitally driven childhoods and adolescences. They grew up surrounded by technology and learning from a very young age how to master them. Where Millennials only discovered the internet in their teenage years, Gen Zers could master it before their pre-pubescent years.

This new generation is now entering the job markets, and they have all this technological knowledge. There’s a better understanding of how the digital-driven world operates and a mastering of the resources to solve problems. Not only that, but there’s a bigger focus on mental health, and prioritising it when faced with work-related issues like stress, huge pressure and burnout. Employers will have to compromise on more than they did with older workers, otherwise there is no hook to keep them working for them. Company culture has become a really important factor when young talent applies for a job. Generation Z ‘job-hop’ more than any other. Organisations must be able to entice employees as much as they are interested in hiring them.

Looking forward into the new age of office jobs
So, are the days of the ‘office job’ over? Not necessarily. The responsibilities from the jobs haven’t gone anywhere, and the work remains to be done. The term white-collar is now outdated, but we understand it refers to workers who don’t perform manual labour. The same can be said for office jobs, where the conditions we complete the work has turned on its head.

Two in five employers will embrace hybrid working by 2023, so it’s safe to say it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Businesses nationwide are leading the revolution for new ways of work, where location is not an issue. Now, we need a generational reset, where we explore new ways to live and work.

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