The number of ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected how companies do business has been a hot topic in the business world since 2020. We’ve even covered it before on our blog. Businesses have scrambled to figure out safe and economical ways to keep their employees busy – sometimes through remote work – while laws and regulations have hastily been created in some areas, quietly rescinded in other areas, and argued over in the public and private sectors.
One major workplace change that has picked up steam in the last few years is the prevalence of remote work and ‘hybrid’ work, an option where employees split work time between home and the office. The widespread implementation of these choices has created a working world far different than that of only five years ago. Whereas nearly all employees were once expected to work at their place of business, nowadays many workers not only never visit their office, but often don’t even reside in the same city or state as their “workplace.” Now that this scenario has been our reality for the past few years, has remote work become the preferred choice by employees across the board? Interestingly, a new study by job search site Joblist shows that the answer is a resounding “no.”
Millennials Want Out, Gen Z Wants In
Broken down by generation, the study shows that baby boomers and Generation X workers have similar preferences when it comes to ‘office vs. remote vs. hybrid’ preferences. 34% of Gen X and 37% of baby boomers prefer in-person work, 40% of both Gen X and baby boomers like working at home, and 26% of Gen X and 23% of baby boomers are comfortable with a hybrid work environment. In short, these older generations are roughly split down the middle as to whether the office is their favored workplace. But here’s where the study takes a sharp and surprising turn.
A robust 49% of millennials surveyed said they wished to work from home, while only 34% preferred in-person work and 17% want the option to do both. With nearly 2/3 of millennials firmly against a purely traditional ‘drive to work’ scenario, you might assume that the trend would only continue with Generation Z, the newest and youngest employees entering the workforce. You would be mistaken. An astounding 57% of Gen Z workers said they would rather have a job that requires in-person work, by far the highest figure in the survey, with only 27% favoring remote work and 16% hoping for a hybrid option.
“Been There Done That” or “Never Got the Chance?”
Unique generational challenges and experiences color the survey’s results. For baby boomers and Generation X employees who have spent decades fighting traffic during the daily commute to work, the idea of pulling up a chair and handling their work responsibilities in their own home is clearly a pleasant thought. Meanwhile, many millennials find themselves with more pressing financial obligations – such as small children – that most older generations have already gone through, but without the job security and stability that workers in their 40s, 50s, and beyond currently enjoy.
Generation Z workers face an entirely different set of circumstances and challenges. Some younger employees in this young generation may have never known work life without a spreading pandemic or a ‘Great Resignation’. Perhaps they’ve not experienced a true workplace environment and may have spent their first 2-3 years of work sitting at a desk at home and feeling cut off from the rest of their team. This lack of camaraderie and in-person mentoring has been hardest on Generation Z, young people who are largely used to the bonding experiences of school and extracurricular activities, and has led to a spate of young remote workers quitting jobs in favor of office positions, even if it means a step down in pay.
Finding a Happy Medium
The difficult push-and-pull between work environment choices continues to be a work in progress, as employers aim to find options that resonate with their employees as well as potential future candidates. As unpopular as it may be with Generation Z, remote work is here to stay, at least for the time being. Joblist’s survey also noted that 43% of remote employees across all generations would quit their current job if they were forced to begin working full-time in the office. It will be interesting to test such a contention if economic conditions in the coming months lead to a rise in unemployment and a corresponding decrease in job openings.
Whether your employees work at the office, work from home, or a mixture of both, businesses today face a number of employment-related legal matters – from policies & procedures to workplace accommodations. Contact us today to see if we can help you!