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Generation Novel hybrid workers bring new demands and risks

Aruba survey warns business leaders that they must strike a balance between flexibility and security to address risky behaviours and evolving expectations of today’s tech-savvy workforce

After years of responding to the needs of Gen X and Gen Y, employers have a whole new generation to grapple with following the pandemic – the emerging Generation Novel (Gen N). This generation, according to a survey by Aruba, will bring a whole new set of challenges to the workplace if their expectations continue to go unmet.

Coined by digital anthropologist Brian Solis, Gen N describes a cross-generational cohort of people who thrive on digital-first experiences and place greater value on personalisation, customisation and transparency from the brands they buy from, work for and support. Above all else, they understand, use and demand more from technology than ever before – at home and at work.

According to the Hewlett Packard Enterprise company’s study of 5,018 hybrid workers across Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the UK, 85% of hybrid workers identify with the traits of Gen N, with 78% of respondents using technology more now than they did before the onset of Covid-19.

Three-quarters considered themselves to be digitally savvy while almost seven in 10 respondents felt they now have more of an opinion on the technology they use at work and 71% regarded it as important to be able to customise their workplace tech setup to suit their individual preferences. Yet only 38% of respondents indicated they had any significant choice in their workplace technology. Without the right technology, workers indicated they experienced decreased productivity (35%) and a poorer work-life balance (23%).

Gen N’s expectations around increased flexibility and confidence in their technical abilities also open businesses up to a number of security risks relating to where, when and what employees connect to the network – with 50% of respondents, for example, claiming they were more likely to try to resolve a tech issue themselves now than before the pandemic.

“Our research suggests that this emerging generation of hybrid workers, with its evolving behaviours and heightened expectations, will put new demands on employers when it comes to workplace technology”
Morten Illum, Aruba

Hybrid workers were also found to have a new perspective on the role of workplace technology. Four-fifths of respondents said their company must maintain policies that encourage healthy technology use, while 73% believed technology had a role to play in fostering an inclusive environment in the new hybrid workplace. Yet 44% believed their employer was not currently doing so.

When encountering a tech issue at work, nearly three-quarters (74%) of hybrid workers said they expected it to be resolved in 20 minutes or less, and over two-fifths (42%) in under 10 minutes. Over half (55%) of respondents admitted to connecting to a non-password-protected public network at least once a week, but only a third (33%) consistently thought of the security risks in doing so. As many as 82% were still using their personal mobile device to access work information.

“Our research suggests that this emerging generation of hybrid workers, with its evolving behaviours and heightened expectations, will put new demands on employers when it comes to workplace technology,” said Morten Illum, vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Aruba.

“To mitigate the security risk that Gen N poses, as well as boost efficiency within their workforce and support their employees, businesses must address these new needs. Striking the balance between an open but secure network will afford employees the flexibility, freedom and personalisation they now seek, without compromising on security,” added Illum.

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