From ancient printers to stubborn scanners, office machines are giving gen Z serious tech shame

By Mason Berlinka

Published Mar 7, 2023 at 01:01 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Gen Zers like myself are finally entering the workforce. And while we’ve all quickly adapted to the office’s specific brand of oat milk, and the best bike route, what our generation of chronically-online, social media-savvy employees weren’t accounting for, is all of the ghastly and archaic technology left over from the 90s and early 00s.

I’m of course talking about machines like the daunting and imposing photocopier, or the printer that sits neglected, making whirring noises as though it’s threatening to explode every time someone reaches for the ‘on’ button.

Moving away from the safety and comfort of a Google Docs link or an AirDrop is a genuinely scary step to take when approaching your new office job. And apparently, this is a genuine symptom of a generation that has been praised as ‘tech-savvy’ and ‘digitally native’ their whole lives. Sure, content creators like Corporate Natalie help the transition, but it’s not always a smooth ride.

Garrett Bemiller, a 25-year-old New Yorker who works as a publicist, told The Guardian that “things like scanners and copy machines are complicated,” and shared that the first time he had to copy something in the office, he found himself having to reattempt several times. Luckily, veteran office workers quickly came to his aid.

Sarah Dexter, associate professor of education at the University of Virginia, told the publication that “there is a myth that kids were born into an information age, and that this all comes intuitively to them.” In reality, we’re not the all-knowing tech gods that so many millennials and gen Xers expect us to be—we still need to be taught how to use things.

The main difference is that we were brought up in an age of extreme user-friendly tech. There is a certain degree of intuitiveness that comes from being so familiar with the internet and apps, but this doesn’t always translate to a long stagnant office culture dynamic—one that seems to so often be living in the past.

Desktop computing is far less instinctive than the mobile, social world that gen Zers roam. It’s true that loud office computers and dense file systems are daunting for the information age.

This one is somewhat embarrassing, but a lot of us don’t seem to understand buttons either. You can’t swipe this computer screen open, as one Reddit user had to make evidently clear with the implementation of a sticker to point out the ‘on’ switch on-screen:

I was told that Gen Z are supposed to be tech savvy… After far too many calls, I finally had to spell it out for them.
byu/mowikn inSysadminhumor

The struggle to adapt to the office environment was given a name by tech giant HP in a survey from November 2022. Dubbed ‘Tech Shame’ by the company, the research found that young people were far more likely to experience embarrassment over tech illiteracy or even a dodgy Wi-Fi connection than their more mature peers.

Debbie Irish, HP’s head of human resources in the UK and Ireland told WorkLife that the amount of shame younger colleagues experience may be a result of things like a lack of disposable income to afford better hardware and internet, versus older more seasoned employees, who are more likely to have higher wages. This divide between the old and the new may be why quiet quitting was such a prevalent trend in 2022.

Hybrid working is part of the problem, and needless to say, our time out of the office as a result of the global pandemic (remember that?) have made office tech seem even more alien to us.

Accessibility is taken for granted today thanks to the apps we find ourselves trapped in. Max Simon, corporate life content creator, told The Guardian that “it takes five seconds to learn how to use TikTok, you don’t need an instruction book, like you would with a printer.”

There is a clear divide between our paperless tech literacy and the physical machines we may encounter in our office jobs. We’ve been made shy because of the emphasis that is placed on us as tech-savvy, when in reality, we just know how to use google to solve our problems. It won’t be long before AI has us all out of the door anyway.

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