Remote work and Gen Z: it’s complicated. With many of the newest generation to the workforce forced into working remotely for their first “grown-up” jobs, many are understandably concerned that they’re missing out on opportunities to learn from and make relationships with their more experienced colleagues.
And the research backs this up. According to a new study by Skynova, 61% of Gen Z working remotely found it difficult to make friends, and 39% struggled with finding mentors and broadening their network. About 58% of Gen Z workers are planning to leave the remote job within the next year. Many of them are looking for hybrid or in-person opportunities.
At Unlock, we are firm believers in the next generation of our workforce. So when we hired our fantastic intern Wieger Lamers, we wanted to make sure that the experience of interning remotely was as rewarding and fulfilling as it could be. We sat down with Wieger to hear what he will take away from the experience.
Q: First of all, could you introduce yourself briefly?
Absolutely. My name is Wieger Lamers, I am 19 years old and a high-school graduate from Amsterdam. I’m finishing up my gap year and excited to go to university in the fall. I joined Unlock several months ago as an intern on the growth team, supporting on marketing, creative and sales-related initiatives. As my more experienced team members at Unlock like to point out, I am a member of the illustrious Gen Z, so I guess my reputation proceeds me ;)
On the grind!
Q: What made you decide to do a remote internship at Unlock?
First of all, the early-stage buzz. Unlock is a startup, a company in its most essential phase, one where it can develop into a well-regarded business on a global scale. For me, there is no greater place to learn new skills and improve others before heading off to my university in France, ESCP. Many of my peers opted to work for older, larger companies. That didn’t appeal to me as much, as it didn’t offer the experience of being a part of something in its first stages, and to understand the unique challenges of a startup and how to solve them.
Furthermore, Unlock walks the talk. As a company which is focused on building real connections for virtual teams, Unlock exemplifies what it stands for — creating a pleasant atmosphere to work in and strong relationships between each and every member of the team. The people are welcoming and spread all over the globe; the benefits of remote work. I mean, how can you promote your product without totally committing to it? You can’t, really. Unlock exemplifies this. I have been working with people from Armenia, Israel, India and Sweden to name a few. Some of them I have never seen in person, yet I still feel at comfort whilst conversing with them. I participate in meetings, brainstorm and discuss fresh ideas, and voice my view and vision. And, most importantly, people listen. My voice is heard, and I am not a mere pawn in a larger game, but feel like I can properly contribute.
Q: What was your first experience with remote work?
For me, remote work first came into play when I was in high school and the virus arrived. My school happened to already supply students with laptops from the beginning of their time at our school, so the transition to remote work was relatively easy. It was, however, not that enjoyable because the social aspect was totally absent. We were given our workload but there was no additional time scheduled for connecting with your peers like you normally would at school. This is also the ‘real’ difference between my time working remotely at school and at Unlock.
Q: What do you think is the secret to staying connected while working remotely?
At Unlock, we have social meetings with the team, short scheduled chats, special hosted experiences together, and overall more communication across the team than we ever did at school. Most crucially, the virtual social time we spend together is high-quality and intentional — there aren’t just meetings for meetings’ sake, or awkward Zoom trivia games. It helps that we benefit from using our team as guinea pigs to test our new product features and virtual experiences as we build them — all designed to make connection as effortless and fun. This results in a much more elevated work experience than I ever had doing virtual learning in high school.
Unleashing our creativity with a virtual collage experience.
Q: Gen Z seems to be more hesitant towards remote work. Why do you think that is?
Overall, especially when I was in school throughout the pandemic, the social aspect was missing. Breaks, where you would normally converse with your classmates, were no longer included and smaller chit-chat during lessons became close to impossible. I think my generation is, however, very open-minded to remote work, and I know of many people my age who would prefer doing nothing over working remotely. It is all about how it is handled. If there is no time for social activities within work hours, people run the risk of feeling more isolated.
As an intern, you want to absorb knowledge and gain as much as possible from your experience. People might believe that this is easiest in an office environment, but I believe that through working remotely one gains new skills not easily attained whilst working at a non-remote company. Each job has its benefits. I could have flipped burgers at ‘Five Guys’ and learned a lot of things I would not have at Unlock; it is all about perspective. Unlock taught me how to adapt yourself to your environment and how vital communication and connections are, regardless of whether you are continents apart, or in the exact same room.
Q: What was one assumption you had about remote work, which turned out to be untrue?
My biggest fear was not feeling included. Nobody wants to feel like an outsider at a company, especially as a new team member early in his/her career! This was, however, not the case at all. Unlock is a truly humane company: I have connected very well with members of the team at Unlock, some of whom I have never met in real life. The time invested in establishing strong, real relationships is essential for me, and means I have a support network that will last much longer than my internship itself.
Countless laughs and happy memories together in the Unlock platform.
Q: What do you see as the most appealing factors of working remotely?
Remote work offers a ton of opportunities not possible in a regular office work environment. It offers flexibility. The ability to choose your work environment how you see fit. The chance to work with people situated all around the world, with differing views, varying cultures and distinct experiences. For instance, I was able to still see my mom whilst working in London because I had the option to work from home. Without remote work, this would not have been possible
Q: What do you think the future of work will look like in 10 years?
I believe we are currently heading for a more neutral mindset towards when and how we work. People’s opinions still greatly differ, though. Take Elon Musk, who called everyone back to the office and resorted to lay-offs for anyone not sharing his views.
Over the next decade, remote work will just be called work. We are heading towards a future in which personal freedom and flexibility will be the key elements in employee retention. The way people think and feel about work is different and highly personal. Unlock fully supports the way people want to work, and is building products that elevate and enhance the remote work experience, bringing the intangible and relational elements of companies into the virtual world. I can’t wait to see which barriers it shatters next!
Thank you so much Wieger for your incredible insights, and for all your hard work and contributions to Unlock!
Curious about the future of work, and building human connections in a virtual workplace? We’d love to chat — get in touch at email@example.com or explore our website at joinunlock.com.