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Workhuman study reveals workplace trends: Gen Z prefers peer recognition, 60% work most productively on site

Latest UK HWI survey reveals attitudes of Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers toward recognition in the workplace, AI, side hustles, job hopping, and more

Workhuman® today announced the results of its latest UK Human Workplace Index (HWI), a comprehensive survey of full-time UK employees aimed at providing the latest insights into key workforce-related topics. Ahead of World Gratitude Day, which falls on Thursday, 21st September, this latest UK HWI study confirms the value of expressing gratitude in the workplace, and reveals some surprising generational differences when it comes to employee recognition. The survey also delves into the perspectives of Gen-Z graduates as they prepare to enter the workforce, alongside the wider group of UK workers, on issues like work arrangements, technology, and workplace concerns.

Workplace recognition trends

While recognition in the workplace has traditionally been associated with senior leaders and direct managers, when asked how they would like their work to be recognised, 75% of Gen Z respondents prefer to be recognised by anyone in their workplace, including peers and leaders across the organisation. This was true for the other generations as well, with Gen X expressing the greatest preference for this type of recognition (85%).

Likewise, with respect to who shows the most gratitude at work, Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X all say their peers do, as compared to senior leaders and managers. In contrast, Boomers say their managers show the most gratitude, with nearly one in three reporting that nobody shows them gratitude at work.

Interestingly, when it comes to which generation is the best and worst at expressing gratitude, each generation thinks their own group is the best at it. Gen Z and Millennials think the silent generation (77-95 years old) is the worst at saying thank you, but Gen X and Boomers both say Gen Z is the worst.

“These findings reveal that the expectations and perceptions employees have around recognition vary from one generation to the next. Our own client research shows that despite this, the positive impacts of recognition—such as higher engagement, retention, and productivity—remain largely consistent across employees of all ages. These findings highlight the importance of fostering a culture where everyone appreciates and acknowledges each other’s contributions, ultimately promoting a more inclusive and motivated work environment for all,” said Dr Meisha-ann Martin, Director of People Analytics and Research, Workhuman.

Other key takeaways and trends:

More productive on-site

UK workers from all generations agree that they are most productive when working on-site, versus remotely. Interestingly, a greater proportion of Gen Z and Gen X feel this way (60%), as compared to Millennials and Boomers (53%). This suggests that today’s workers may value the structure and environment of a physical workplace for their productivity.

Resistance to 100% on-site work

Nevertheless, a majority of workers, particularly Millennials (66%) and Gen Z (63%), would consider leaving their jobs if their companies enforced 100% on-site work. This implies that the flexibility to work remotely or in a hybrid manner has become a crucial factor in job satisfaction and retention, especially for younger generations.

Preference for hybrid work

In fact, for everyone except for Boomers, there is a strong preference for hybrid work, with 60% of Gen Z, Millennial and Gen X workers preferring to split their time between working in the office and remotely. Only 37% of Boomers prefer hybrid work.

Gen Z in the workplace

  • Gen Z is widely seen as the most tech-savvy generation, with everyone agreeing except for Millennials, who view themselves as the most technologically proficient. This might be due to the fact that Millennials grew up with technology like iPads, the internet, and social media, which has shaped their self-perception of their tech abilities.
  • When it comes to the impact of AI on the workplace, a majority of Gen Z believe that AI could dehumanise the workplace or even replace human workers. Millennials view AI more positively than any other generation, seeing AI as something that will get rid of menial or routine tasks as their top prediction for AI’s effect on the workplace.
  • Notably, the majority of respondents consider DEI very important or extremely important, but Gen Z puts the highest emphasis on this, with 80% agreeing it is. Boomers appear to place relatively less importance on DEI compared to other generations (only 60% agree).
  • Gen Z (65%) and Millennials (52%) show a higher interest in having side hustles or starting one, possibly reflecting their desire for additional income streams due to economic challenges or aspirations for a new career. But for Boomers, 80% don’t have a one and only one in ten is considering it.
  • Likewise, Gen Z is most open to job hopping (70%). Millennials are also relatively supportive of this practice (53%), but 56% of Gen X and 57% of Boomers say job hopping is not the right approach.

“Workhuman’s UK HWI study has uncovered crucial insights about the evolving workplace landscape, and highlights the importance of organisations adopting strategies that cater to the unique expectations of each generation – at the same time ensuring that recognition for a job well done is given and received by everyone.”  said Dr. Martin.

Survey Methodology:

Workhuman’s UK Human Workplace Index (HWI) is a survey of 1,000 full-time UK workers on workplace topics. This research was conducted by Pollfish on behalf of Workhuman and was undertaken during August 2023.

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