While the WFH setup has been welcome for some mid-career workers and a headache for others, it's important not to overlook remote work's impact on another demographic: those who began their careers in the past two years.
To them, this is just what work is like. They interviewed for entry-level jobs in front of a webcam and have been pursuing them from a kitchen table. The only change they had to adapt to was the change of starting to work full-time after high school, university, or apprenticeship (which, for those of you who barely remember it, is change enough for anybody). It's probable that they have no idea they've missed anything--and, if employers do right by them, they don't actually have to.
Being in the office benefits younger professionals in particular ways. It's a chance to meet new people and build a network, to learn more about their role by observing more experienced colleagues, to get immediate feedback and support, and to gain a sense of how their day-to-day routine fits into a bigger picture (and thus better understand their industry). Whether or not they're aware of it, evidence suggests the new generation of employees have felt the loss of these things acutely: the group most likely to report a negative effect on mental health from the pandemic was people 25 and under.
So what can employers do to help their freshly-minted colleagues get the most from their careers? For starters, consideration for mental health helps everyone--but a culture where struggles are openly discussed and support can be asked for and received is especially meaningful for those with little job experience who are still adjusting to the expectations.
Pay special attention too to your onboarding process, ensuring that everybody in the department is involved and communicative. Set aside time for new hires to meet the team in a relaxed videocall or have everybody send their own personalised intro email. In other words, make space for people early in their career to hit it off with their colleagues and potentially form long-term professional relationships.
Speaking of communication and relationships, leaders should strive to set an example by being responsive to emails and instant messages from entry-level employees, taking opportunities to show them that their time is valued and their questions matter. As for communications from the other direction, newsletters, Q&A meetings, or spotlight sessions are great opportunities to highlight different aspects of the business for those new to your field.
Make sure you offer wellbeing support and encourage human connection, so your younger workers feel part of the organisation and know friendly faces they can turn to. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what works for everyone. This will benefit your whole team, not just the youngest members.