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Gen Z are suffering the worst at work due to the pandemic

The Microsoft Work Trend Index 2021 report found over 50% Asian workers are considering a career shift, after a year of working through the pandemic

About 60% Gen Z participants believed they were merely surviving or struggling since the pandemic.
About 60% Gen Z participants believed they were merely surviving or struggling since the pandemic. (Unsplash)

After a year of massive work-life balance disruption, working professionals in Asia seem to have reached an inflection point, with 47% looking to change jobs. Over 50% are also seriously considering a career shift. The global average for both these stand at 41% and 46% respectively, say the 2021 Work Trend report published by Microsoft on Monday.

Interestingly, 35% professionals in the Asian market admitted to having drop-in interaction with their co-workers, compared to the global average of 40%.

Microsoft reached out to 31,092 people (full-time and self-employed workers) across 31 countries in January, this year. The report also studied the productivity trends in MS Outlook and LinkedIn. Besides employee wellbeing, it looked at the preparedness of organisations in handling the changes brought to workers’ attitudes by the pandemic.

One of the most affected segments is the Gen Z. Sixty percent of participants in that age group said that they were "merely surviving or struggling right now” in terms of coming up with innovative ideas. They also admitted to feeling isolated and lack of excitement about their work, and not having much of a say during team meetings.

While productivity increased, there has been a decrease in interaction and broader networking. “We saw that people clung on to immediate teams for support and let their broader network fall to the wayside. Simply put, companies became more siloed than they were pre-pandemic,” said Nicole Herskowitz, general manager, Microsoft Teams, who headed the report.

In New Zealand and Korea this trend spiked. As a result, innovation is at risk as people find it difficult to strategise, brainstorm and propose new ideas, which happens while collaborating or interacting with different teams.

The report’s findings reiterate that productivity has increased during the last year. However, it has also resulted in the workforce feeling exhausted. Over half of the workers across the world uniformly admitted to feeling overworked. The time spent on weekly meetings had risen two-and-a-half-times across markets, except in China and Australia. Employees who used Microsoft Teams sent 45% more chats per week and 42% more chats after office hours from 2019.

Due to intense stress, one in six workers, especially in healthcare, travel and tourism and education sectors, cried to a co-worker, the report says. “Co-workers leaned on each other in new ways to get through the last year,” Herskowitz said. In Japan, however, the disruption caused by the pandemic didn’t have much impact on its high productivity levels (63%), which remained the same as 2019.

The report found business leaders coping with the pandemic better than their employees. Around 61% leaders believed they were thriving, while nearly 40% employees felt their organisation “is asking too much of them at a time like this”.

To mitigate the new challenges, the report recommended providing flexibility to employees, addressing the digital exhaustion felt by many, bridging the gap between offline and online world by invest in technology, and by hiring diverse talent, along with improving employee experience.

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