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Covid creates career lockdown for young workers

Young British workers are worried that remote working will stifle their career progression by reducing skills training and opportunities to learn from more experienced colleagues.

While there have been numerous reports about how working from home is boosting productivity, two new studies show that the downside for employees aged under 30 could be considerable.

A survey commissioned by Sharp of more than 6,000 office workers in SMEs across Europe reveals more than half are anxious about issues such as keeping skills up to date, lack of training and career opportunities when thinking long term about the future of work.

And while the majority of those under the age of 30 feel remote working has made them more productive, and the technology that supports it has enabled them to do their work more effectively, almost two thirds said that working remotely makes it harder for them to stay informed on what was going on in the company. More than half said they felt cut off from their team and the same percentage found it hard to stay motivated.

Under 30s also appear to be missing out on core skills needed for career progression as a result of working remotely. Future of work organisational psychologist Viola Kraus explains: “There is a growing trend that the youngest generation of workers, as ‘digital natives’ who know how to use tech, can be left to their own devices, to figure it out alone.

“This generation not only need to be taught the skills to get the best from technology but need to be taught general business skills to progress in their job. These young workers’ fears for career development likely stem from a lack of connection and direction from their team and senior colleagues while working remotely, so it’s important to ensure that while we continue to work virtually, employers provide guidance and a formalised platform where peer-to-peer learning is encouraged, and eventually it happens naturally.”

The research showed younger employees are looking to their employers to support them with opportunities to learn and develop. When thinking about their experiences during lockdown, 63% of office workers under 30 said that opportunities for upskilling and training had become more important to them. Similarly, when working remotely, 41% believe that employers should still be offering employees the opportunity to learn new skills through online training or companywide workshops.

“As businesses plan for the future of work, it’s important to make sure the fundamentals of work that are key to career development aren’t left behind for the ‘digitally savvy’ generation, and ensure technology is used to support this learning and collaboration as the way we work continues to change,” said Rob Davis, Solutions & Services Business Manager at Sharp.

Impact on all generations

The study’s release coincides with research from GetApp, a Gartner company, which found that employees at both ends of the age spectrum were expected to need extra support to cope with the changing world of work. Workers aged under 25 and over 56 were the most likely to say they needed additional training to adjust to remote or hybrid working.

Interestingly, workers in their fifties and sixties were the most likely to say they wanted to keep working remotely full-time once the pandemic subsided (60%), while only 23% of those aged 25 or under felt the same.

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