Is There a Generational Divide When it Comes to Return to the Office?
Work from home (WHF) is not a new concept, nor just a response to the pandemic. The WFH trend began gaining momentum a few years before the pandemic hit. Many companies were offering work-from-home days, as benefits to employees, who saw it as an opportunity to improve their work-life balance and reduce their commute time.
However, the pandemic escalated the trend and forced all non-essential workers to work from home. This compulsory departure from the office changed the natural order of the work environment for workers across the globe. As we emerge from the pandemic and people begin to return to offices, it seems a generational divide is emerging between those who want to return to the office and those who don’t.
A survey conducted in the US, found that 55 percent of millennials voiced reluctance to return, opposed to 45 percent of Gen Zers and 36 percent of Baby Boomers.
Why is there a generational gap?
The most obvious gap between the generations is that millennials have grown-up with technology. They’ve learnt from a young age how to use it and adopted it as soon as new advances began appearing.
Millennials are also more versed in online communications, frequently communicating from a young age on platforms such as MSN, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Older generations, however, are more comfortable making connections in person – they see it as an opportunity to bond with colleagues and work on their relationships with managers.
Besides the discrepancies in knowledge and comfort with using digital technology, younger workers find the flexibility and freedom remote work offers to mesh with their lifestyles a benefit. Many millennials will begin to have families, and being able to keep an eye on children while working, or increasing time spent with family due to reduction of commute time are major benefits of WFH.
Similarly, the new trend of the digital nomad lifestyle can be more attractive to the younger workers who are not yet ready, or willing to settle down. Working remotely offers them an opportunity to live in a different city, or country without having to sacrifice their career for travel.
However, younger generations will also have to deal with the cons of remote working. For one, organizational culture will suffer, with employees less likely to make connections when they’re not in the same physical space. Coffee and water cooler chats disappearing, and meetings becoming more focused on the tasks at hand. As these workers grow older, and their social life slows down due to family commitments and other factors, connections with colleagues may become more important.
There are many reasons why there is a generational gap in adoption of WHF. It’s certain that employees will demand more flexibility, but it is not necessarily true that this will be the end of the office. Instead will see a shift in how offices are used, with more flexibility and focus on creating social, collaborative space for employees.