Younger workers don’t favor full-remote work

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Among people who follow the news on workplace (and workforce) satisfaction, the opinions of younger workers are often considered especially relevant, because we assume that the preferences of younger workers will become the big trends of tomorrow. So, I was very interested to see a recent poll from the website, which publishes a lot of information for college students.

The site recently released a survey of current students and recent graduates, and there were some surprising results. Contrary to the narrative that remote work is here to stay, even post-pandemic, almost 80 percent of new and upcoming graduates would prefer in-person or hybrid work over a full-remote position. Apparently kids these days don’t all want to be van-life digital nomads.

More findings from the survey include that one in four students who are graduating from a four-year college say they won’t accept a starting salary under $70,000 and that one in six say they prioritize a potential employer’s ethical reputation over their own salary. Among students who just graduated at the end of Spring semester this year, only one in five say they have a job lined up in their chosen field.

The remote work result should, perhaps, not be surprising, since plenty of polls have found that a common complaint of new employees is that they are insufficiently onboarded and trained when they start a new job, and full-remote work obviously makes that process more difficult. Plenty of observers of the post-Covid work world have also pointed out that younger workers have more reasons to want to work out of a physical office, since they would benefit from socializing, networking, and learning from older colleagues.

Also, this part may be less obvious, but younger workers are more likely to live in smaller apartments and houses and are more likely to have roommates, thus their work from home environment will be more crowded. If you’re 50 years old and you own a four-bedroom house you can likely set aside an entire room as a home office. If you’re sharing a 1,000 square foot apartment with another person, you clearly don’t have that kind of luxury.

Related to these trends, my Competitive Enterprise Institute colleague Christine Hall recently brought to my attention a Business Insider article about how Millennial and Gen Z employees often feeling confused, irritated, and left out by endless “workplace jargon” in the office.

There are a couple of angles to this. First, every industry and company has its own internal terminology that new employees have to learn and being in the office and talking with more experienced colleagues face-to-face is the best way to do that. The second angle has to do with the actual phrases cited in the article, which is reporting on new research by LinkedIn and Duolingo. Many of the examples used are less jargon than they are figures of speech like “blue sky thinking,” “low-hanging fruit,” “moving forwards,” “touch base,” “circle back,” and “ducks in a row.” These may or not be as common to people who are 25 as people who are 50, but they’re hardly work-specific jargon.

Regardless of whether this ostensibly confusing terminology is actually technical or merely colloquial, younger workers are not going to easily learn it at home. They actually need to have conservations with their older colleagues to integrate into the adult working world.  

We also covered this topic in Episode 25 of the Free the Economy podcast (employment survey segment starts at 1:05).