They may be digital natives, but young workers were raised on user-friendly apps – and office devices are far less intuitive
Garrett Bemiller, a 25-year-old New Yorker, has spent his entire life online. He grew up in front of screens, swiping from one app to the next. But there’s one skill set Bemiller admits he’s less comfortable with: the humble office printer.

“Things like scanners and copy machines are complicated,” says Bemiller, who works as a publicist. The first time he had to copy something in the office didn’t exactly go well. “It kept coming out as a blank page, and took me a couple times to realize that I had to place the paper upside-down in the machine for it to work.”

Bemiller usually turns to Google for answers. But he’s also found an alliance with some older workers, who are veterans of the copy room and can swiftly purchase shipping labels on the office UPS account.

Gen Z workers tend to be well equipped to edit photos and videos all from their phones, or use website builders like Squarespace and Wix. They grew up using apps to get work done and are used to the ease that comes with Apple operating systems. Their formative tech years were spent using software that exists to be user-friendly.

But desktop computing is decidedly less intuitive. Things like files, folders, scanning, printing, and using external hardware are hallmarks of office life. Do they know what button to press to turn on a bulky computer monitor, when many simply close their personal laptops when they’re done with them? (No, says one Reddit user who works in IT and has resorted to putting a sign over the power button on work computers.)

Steve Bench runs workshops on generational differences in the corporate world. “I joke in my sessions that my Gen Z intern didn’t know how to mail a letter,” he said. “They asked me where the sticker went. I said, ‘Do you mean the stamp?’”

Dell used its own survey of respondents between the ages of 18 and 26 to find that 56% of respondents said “they had very basic to no digital skills education.” A third of them said their education had not provided them “with the digital skill they need to propel their career”. What they know comes from the apps they use on their own time, not the tech supplies at Office Depot.

“Sadly, neither watching TikTok videos nor playing Minecraft fulfills the technology brief.” “It takes five seconds to learn how to use TikTok,” content creator Max Simon, who makes TikTok videos about corporate life, told The Guardian. “You don’t need an instruction book, like you would with a printer.” “Content is so easy to access now that when you throw someone a simple curveball they’ll swing and they miss,” he added, “and that’s why Gen Z can’t schedule a meeting.” (unquote)

Image courtesy Getty Images / Futurism

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