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The tech that trips up Gen Z

Who would have thought that Gen Z — the first generation that’s had access to the Internet and social media since they were born — would be struggling with technology in the office? Yet, according to a recent study by Dell, 44% said that school only taught them very basic computing skills. 

And while post-Millennials may be comfortable swiping from one app to the next on a smartphone — leaving many Boomers bewildered — the humble office printer’s features are proving hard to overcome.  

Naturally, Gen Zers are heading to Google for answers, but even older workers are proving to be a helpful guide, even if it is a bit awkward. 

Understanding how to edit photos and videos from user-friendly apps is one thing, but the desktop world is a different story. Desktop computing is simply less intuitive, which is why Millennials are more likely to know how to manage files, folders, scanners, and external devices. In their generation, desktops were the norm, and troubleshooting was a skill needed to navigate less user-friendly interfaces. 

So, which tech is causing Gen Z so much headache, and is there anything we can do to help them? 

Baffling printers and photocopiers 

We’re heading deeper into a paperless world, and according to TechRadar, the pandemic has accelerated the decline of the printing industry. Most offices still rely on printing to some extent, but Gen Z is baffled by the technology, as well as scanners and copy machines, which say they are too complicated: 

“It seems like I’m uncovering an ancient artifact, in a way,” a worker explains in a recent report by The Guardian

Archaic phone calls

Businesses have traditionally relied on phones as the pinnacle of customer service to resolve problems and help market new products and services. But research has discovered that Millennials and Gen Z don’t like taking calls and consider the practice archaic. The reason? They don’t like the “small talk” part of phone calls, including greetings and niceties. Instead, they prefer speedier, prompt communication with clear results, such as one can find in messaging apps.

Outdated emails

Besides their hatred for office printers and handling phone calls, the current generation also believes email is outdated. Their belief is so strong that the generation aims to free the world from overflowing inboxes — the horrible cocktail of unfiltered spam and unread messages. 

According to a study from Creative Strategies, for people under 30, rather than email, Google Docs was the app that younger workers associated most with collaboration, followed by the popular video conferencing platform, Zoom. 

Falling over files 

In recent years, there’s also been a startling revelation from professors. Students, even those studying a technical field, cannot figure out the concept of computer storage. 

Gen Z is particularly struggling to organize directories and folders, The Verge reports in their aptly named article “File not found”. The insightful report touched on how Lincoln Colling, a psychology lecturer, instructed a class of research students to pull out a file — but to his amazement, was met with blank stares. 

Helping Gen Z navigate office tech 

Tech giant HP coined the phrase “tech shame” to emphasize young people’s difficulties in using basic office tools. However, this has led some online publications to criticize and blame students unfairly.

Although Generation Z is statistically the smallest generation (13%) in the workforce, they’re pivotal in shaping the future office. Therefore, it’s important for business leaders to work with Gen Z to understand their challenges and work with them to build a more productive working environment.  

While digital-first workers might literally and figuratively be at home working remotely, they also see benefits in a physical office space that caters to a perfect blend of social interaction, well-being, and flexibility. 

The workspace of the future

Overall, decision makers need to design a work environment that integrates the technology Gen Z uses on a day-to-day basis. Whether that’s using smartphones to operate printers, having easy access to video conferencing apps, or swapping email with instant messaging, organizations need to embrace the way the new generation works rather than tech-shaming them.

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Richard King avatar

Richard King

Richard is a technology copywriter who aims to simplify the complex world around us using words. As well as an interest in all things tech, he enjoys learning about usability and the overall customer journey. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, skiing, video gaming, and playing the piano and drums. More articles written by Richard.

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