How different generations feel about remote work
The Pyn Team
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many personal opinions on remote work have changed. Some of those perspectives are split by generation. Gen Zers and millennials, for example, were more likely to prefer a hybrid work week, citing concerns of mental health and burnout during the pandemic.
However, members across all generations had reservations about working remotely every day. Only 21.4% of Gen Xers and baby boomers wanted to do so, according to a Hubble HQ survey. And that’s already a significant increase compared to the percentage of Gen Zers and millennials who wanted to do the same. That’s in line with employers’ perspectives, as per a January 2021 PWC survey, which showed 62% leaned toward having employees in office for two to four days a week.
As companies either begin to return in person or continue evaluating the new ideal workday, Pyn compiled a list of generational perspectives on remote work from 2019 to 2021 from news, think tanks, and industry reports and found that younger generations reported more difficulties with remote work.
Gen Z most likely to struggle with work-life balance
A March 2021 Microsoft survey found that 60% of Gen Zers between 18 and 25 years old were “merely surviving or flat-out struggling.” The group was also more likely to feel exhausted after a workday. Gen Zers were also more likely than other generations to struggle balancing work with life; an August 2021 Adobe report found that Gen Z respondents were less satisfied with their work-life balance than other generations.
However, a MetLife study found the opposite—that half of the workers in their 20s thought their work-life balance was better than before the pandemic, compared to only a quarter of baby boomers. Members of Gen Z were also more likely to be living with parents or friends and couldn’t create the ideal home workspace, Hubble HQ reported in August 2021. Accordingly, 37% of Gen Zers said they missed the office as a dedicated work environment, compared to 25.6% of millennials and 19.8% of Gen Xers and baby boomers.
Gen Z sees a drop in productivity while working online
A Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll conducted in July 2021 found that 43% of Gen Zers reported a decrease in productivity during remote work, the highest percentage of any other generation. These individuals, ranging between 18 and 24 years old, are either early in their careers or even in their first job, which could be particularly difficult without in-person guidance and onboarding, Fortune pointed out.
Gen Z faces reduced hours while Gen X, millennials save money with remote work
Gen Z’s struggles are exacerbated by changes to working hours and wages, according to the Center for Generational Kinetics' 2020 Study on Leading Multiple Generations Remotely. A quarter of Gen Z respondents in the study reported lowered salaries or wages and 45% had fewer work hours, according to the report. A third also said their job’s main focus had deviated from its original description.
Additionally, 60% of Gen Xers and 52% of millennials said they would save money working at home, according to a March 2020 National Research Group report. These two generations were also most concerned about the pandemic's financial impact.
Gen Z, millennials feel pressured to perform well and align with office norms
Between 49% of Gen Zers and 55% of millennials reported feeling pressure to perform to the best of their capabilities, according to a March 2021 Nationwide and Ipsos MORI survey. A total of 62% of Gen Zers also reported feeling pressure to align with the typical 9-to-5 workday, even though a quarter preferred to work outside of the standard office hours, according to an August 2021 Adobe report.
Roughly half of the employees across all generations were working outside of business hours, according to MetLife’s study, and only 8% of baby boomers took more paid time off than in previous years.
Gen Zers who started work before or during the pandemic had different priorities
Even within one generation, there are differing perspectives on remote work. Eighty-seven percent of Gen Z workers between 18 to 24 years old who entered the workforce remotely during the pandemic said work-life balance was their top work priority, Citrix’s “Born Digital” report found. In contrast, 87% of Gen Z members who began working prior to the pandemic prioritized job satisfaction.
Gen Zers and baby boomers more likely to apply for remote jobs
Gen Zers and baby boomers were more likely than other generations to apply to remote jobs, according to LinkedIn. Gen Zers were 17% more likely to apply to remote work than other generations, which LinkedIn attributes to the generation’s familiarity with technology and virtual collaboration.
Meanwhile, baby boomers were 15% more likely to apply to remote work than other generations. This could be because of skepticism about returning to work in-person, LinkedIn suggests. Senior company positions might also allow for greater flexibility in remote work. Some baby boomers are leaning into remote work as an opportunity to extend their careers before retirement.
Millennials concerned about stress, had high levels of engagement at work
Millennials were most concerned about stress and burnout during remote working, according to The Conference Board’s June 2021 “Return to Work” survey. Within the 25% of respondents who expressed mental health concerns, 70% of millennials listed stress and burnout as their top concern, compared to 59% and 42% of Gen Xers and baby boomers, respectively.
In addition, half of Gen Z and 43% of millennials said remote work has led to “undue pressure on their health and wellbeing,” according to a March 2021 Ipsos MORI survey. Despite this, 41% of millennial employees were engaged with their work, according to a December 2020 Gallup survey—the highest ever the analytics company had ever seen.
Many Gen Zers and millennials don’t want to work remotely every day
With all of the above in mind, Gen Zers and millennials were less likely to prefer fully remote work weeks than Gen Xers and baby boomers, Hubble HQ found. And these generations were also more likely to consider quitting their job if there weren’t flexible remote work options, according to a poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News. Forty-nine percent of millennials and Gen Zers would think about quitting, compared to 39% across all generations.
Gen Zers and millennials prefer hybrid work, need in-person interaction
More than half of Gen Zers and millennials preferred a hybrid work week, with three days at home and two days in person, a March 2021 Ipsos MORI poll found. These generations said face-to-face interaction improves their work. More than half of employees between the ages of 18 to 29 reported a lack of motivation in their work, Pew Research Center reported in December 2020. And online video calls left 40% of surveyed workers between the ages of 18 and 49 feeling worn out, compared to 31% of older generations.
Gen Z and millennial managers have more remote team members
All of this has implications for the future of remote work as well. Even prior to the pandemic, 69% of millennial and Gen Z managers had employees who work remotely, according to Upwork’s 2019 Future Workforce Report. Seventy-four percent of managers said they had team members who worked remotely a “significant portion of their time,” compared to only 58% of baby boomers.