Gen Z Really Wants to Get Back to the Office - OZY | A Modern Media Company

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The youngest generation is the most excited about having to commute again.

By Fiona Zublin

  • The most tech-savvy generation in the history of humanity, which grew up with smartphones and apps, is the least excited about working remotely.
  • The novelty of the workplace for this young generation coupled with space constraints might be fueling the trend.

It’s only been a few months since most of us switched to working full-time from home, but it’s already hard to believe everyone ever willingly gave over huge chunks of their day to commuting when their jobs were doable via an internet connection.

Surveys earlier this summer found that 77 percent of people want to stay at least partially remote even after it becomes safe to commute again. According to new data from LinkedIn, though, that desire isn’t spread evenly across the generations — and it is the world’s most tech-savvy generation ever that’s also the most eager to return to the office.

42 percent of Gen Z would rather go back to the workplace than remain remote, far more than any other generation.

By comparison, 32 percent of baby boomers, 26 percent of millennials and just 21 percent of Gen X say the same. Gen Zers also report more excitement about the prospect of getting back to the workplace before 2021 than any other generation.

“Many in this generation are in their first jobs — in fact, Gen Z is the generation most likely to have started a new job in the last three months,” explains LinkedIn career expert Blair Heitmann. Nearly 1 in 4 have new jobs, compared with 6 percent of millennials. “It makes sense that they’d be the generation most eager to experience a ‘real’ workplace for the first time,” says Heitmann. Face-to-face interaction with colleagues is a part of that — and since Gen Zers are less likely to have kids, they don’t have stressors like figuring out child care while they’re at work.

Another factor may be space. One study of young Londoners who share living quarters found that 42 percent said they didn’t have enough space to work at home. The median size of their personal space was just 10 feet by 11 feet. Gen Z is more likely to be inhabiting smaller apartments or living with their parents, making the office a more welcome change than it might be for someone working out of their spare bedroom.

Gen X, the least excited generation about returning to the workplace, may also be saddling the experience with morose expectations. According to LinkedIn’s data, 23 percent worry that their boss will think they aren’t dedicated if they don’t go back in, more than any other age group.

While office camaraderie could be a perk, especially if many workplaces choose not to bring employees back into the same physical space even post-pandemic, it’s unlikely to continue unchanged by COVID-19. Most workers think employers should be adjusting policies to keep up with pandemic-era hygiene: getting rid of in-person meetings or allowing only a certain number of people into the building at any one time to allow social distancing.

Workplace camaraderie could be affected too, Heitmann says. Responsible employers will need to evaluate how to change rules around shared social spaces like kitchens and restrooms and potentially establish formal rules when it comes to group lunches and other friendly — and now potentially dangerous — bonding activities.

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