Gen Z are sick of being boomers’ tech gurus

July 13, 2022, 2:34 PM UTC
A young woman helps an older woman employee on her computer.
Gen Z spends an average of eight hours per week helping older coworkers look for computer files.
Getty Images

Something tech-savvy workers may have been relieved to leave in the past during the era of remote work: sitting next to an employee who needs help converting a Word doc to a PDF…again.

Generational gaps in particular can sometimes lead to extra work that usually falls on younger employees. According to a new survey of 1,000 American workers by software development company OSlash, while most computer and software issues can be resolved with a Google search, some workers routinely opt to ask a younger colleague for help instead.

As a result, those younger colleagues end up helping again and again, even when it’s not in their job description—or pay grade. And they’re tired of being everyone’s tech support. The survey found that Gen Z spends an average of eight hours per week helping older coworkers look for computer files—that comes out to over $11,000 a year of wasted employer pay.

A quarter of Gen Z said it prevents them from getting their work done. Plus, they reported that older coworkers hold up a quarter of their daily meetings with their tech issues.

It’s probably because not everyone is as tech-savvy as they claim to be, OSlash found. Eighty-six percent of American employees admitted to lying about their tech skills before being hired—most often about proficiency in database management, graphic design, and accounting software. 

Specifically, one in five respondents admitted to not knowing how to use Zoom before getting hired at their most recent company. Gen X and boomers were the most likely to lie about their Zoom skills; over a quarter (27%) of boomers said they knew how to share their screen during a Zoom meeting, but didn’t.

Those who often needed assistance with tech cited a few main pain points: hardware issues, software malfunctions, and trouble with office tools like printers and scanners. But it’s also social media. Most modern companies rely heavily on social media, another area older workers may be less familiar with. Some of OSlash’s respondents reported spending over five hours per week helping others with social media issues.

But older folks aren’t always the ones out of the tech loop. Sometimes, it’s the reverse. Research from Asana recently found many offices still use outdated equipment, including fax machines, which leaves Gen Zers confused and seeking older workers’ assistance. These “legacy” systems, as Asana calls them, are behind some of the impostor syndrome that 78% of younger workers report feeling.

Workers of all ages have one thing in common, they told OSlash: They’re frustrated by the way their workplace rolls out new technology. Often, new hardware and software is implemented without adequate support, training, or time to adjust. 

Most workers said they’d appreciate weekly training sessions—with multiple training options—from employers for all requisite tech. Ideally, bosses would go the extra step, hiring professionals to lead the training and field worker questions down the line. This would stand to save more tech-savvy workers their time—and their company its dollars.

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