Millennials Aren't Working From Home … Baby Boomers Are

Millennials Aren't Working From Home … Baby Boomers Are

By Lisa Rabasca Roepe


Because millennials actually want to be in the office.

By Lisa Rabasca Roepe

Working from home is still an eyebrow-raising subject in some workplaces. Still, nearly 4 million U.S. employees — about 3 percent of the U.S. workforce — worked remotely half the time in 2015. Times are changing, and while most experts credit millennials and their push for greater work-life balance with the increased acceptance of teleworking, it’s actually older employees who work from home most frequently. 

The average telecommuter is 45 years of age or older. 

And the older the worker, the more likely they’ll be working remotely. Employees who are 65 or older are 1.7 times more likely to telecommute, while 35- to 54-year-olds (Gen Xers) are 1.1 times more likely, according to the 2017 “State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce,” a report by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics. Average telecommuters also earn more than in-house workers — by about $4,000 a year. The report, which is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, does not include the self-employed (such as freelancers) or employees who split their day between home and office, work extra hours at home or work at home less than half the time.  


So, why are the middle-aged working from home more? While the research shows the idea of telecommuting is actually more popular among millennials, it’s “more available to those who have earned the trust of their employer or just don’t give a damn about climbing the corporate ladder,” explains Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. By the time most workers are 45 or older, Lister says, they’ve reached the highest rung they are likely to reach. Meanwhile, millennials are more concerned about being seen in the office, and they worry that remote work will diminish their promotion potential. 

The best companies are managing by results rather than butts in seats.

Kate Lister, president, Global Workplace Analytics

It’s not just writers and graphic designers working away in their home offices. Companies are hiring remote workers for a variety of positions including heads of retail customer success, chief development officers, food safety auditors and medical physician consultants — positions that aren’t normally thought of as remote-friendly. And medical and health careers typically offer the highest number of remote and flexible positions month-over-month, says Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs.

Teleworking is becoming more accepted across fields “largely due to the changing attitudes of managers and workers regarding what work looks like in the 21st century,” Fell explains. Plus, powerful and affordable technology lets us connect from anywhere, and allows for easy access to people, tools and information.

The way companies manage has also changed. Whether employees are nine floors or nine time zones away, “the best companies are managing by results rather than butts in seats,” Lister says. “Management by walking around is no longer possible, necessary or wise. As work has become more distributed and globalized, it has forced good managers to manage in a way that the experts have been extolling for decades — agree on outcomes, give your people what they need to get the job done and get out of their way.” 

A decade from now, will we even be talking about teleworking? Lister predicts no. Employees will be working from the office, home and whatever iteration of the coffee shop exists then — and they will be paid based on outcomes, not just for showing up. Work will be more fluid, less scripted and less micromanaged, Lister says, and computers, robots and other augmented intelligence will do the drudge work, freeing people to do what humans do best — use their intellectual capital. And to do so wherever it suits them.