Generation R?

The global pandemic has kickstarted the growth of an entirely new generation, and it has nothing to do with age…

If anyone were to try to guess which generation was most likely to thrive in the pandemic lockdown, other than Generation X, few would have thought it would be the much-maligned Boomers. Even fewer would have believed that the generation that would struggle the most was the Millennial. The digital natives didn’t find comfort in digital isolation. However, within the tropes of Gen X, Millennial and Boomer has emerged a new generation, one that isn’t determined by age but by the pandemic – Generation R.

“This generation is defined as those individuals who have proactively prepared for the new normal of work – learning new skills, how to use remote tools, achieving goals, and being more effective with time,” says Nicol Myburgh Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit. “The jury is still out on whether this concept is real – it’s just remote work – but there are nuggets of truth within it.”

These nuggets are the need for individuals to find ways of evolving their skillsets and abilities to achieve outcomes and work goals in environments that are not tightly controlled. It’s difficult for some people to find productivity in a remote setting, but those who can, are exceptional at it. They work long hours, shift the boundaries of work and play, and engage across multiple platforms and channels.

“Of course, there are also those who aren’t performing well,” adds Myburgh. “This tends to be the Millennial generation who is caught watching TV rather than working. But that’s only the minority. For the most part, people are prioritising their lives around the lockdown and building new ways of engaging across the personal and professional spheres. Because, within the two extremes of the workaholic and the work averse, is the need for balance.”

It’s a very real challenge. People are working from home so the lines are immediately blurred. They can be contacted on an instant messaging platform, their phones or computers, and in their lounges, kitchens and bedrooms. Spaces that were once reserved for living are now being overtaken by working. The Generation R individual needs to be defined by more than a strong work ethic; they need to be defined by their ability to create balance.

“There are those who send emails at 10pm and then send messages if they don’t get an immediate reply,” says Myburgh. “Managers who expect their employees to jump at every shout, day or night. Generation R is wonderful, but only if there’s balance and, for most, this doesn’t exist.”

To find the even keel within the pandemic storm, companies need to enable better work-from-home environments and management methods. Employees need a work setup that includes a desk, laptop, comfortable chair and connectivity. Then they need to know how to use all the underlying platforms to support day-to-day working. And, perhaps most importantly, everybody needs to stick to working hours.

“Office hours are contractually mandated and there are limitations on when people should work. No employer should be forcing people to do more than they are contracted to do,” says Myburgh. “Organisations need to recognise and reinforce this so that people can achieve balance and the potential that’s laid out in the concept of Generation R.”

The benefit of this approach is that employees will have the freedom to invest in personal growth which, in turn, hands the business access to an increasingly skilled workforce. People who have the time to focus on what they want to do and explore skills they didn’t know they could do, are going to be the engaged and empowered employees who take supportive organisations into a far more productive future.

“Generation R may not be a thing – yet – but the one fact that has emerged from the pandemic is that generation means very little in the end,” concludes Myburgh. “What matters is the ability to use any complex or challenging situation to grow as a person and adapt to an uncertain future. This is the generation that should be on the organisation’s radar – one that’s agile, adaptive and capable of balance.”