Millennials Wanted To Work From Home—This Isn’t What They Meant
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Millennials have been wanting the flexibility to work from home for ages—now that the pandemic has forced them to, do they want to keep away from the workplace?
Currently, 61% of employed Millennials are working from home full or part time because of COVID-19. Some might think that this flexibility-loving, burnt out generation might want to make remote working their permanent reality post-quarantines, but our recent survey on young consumers’ employment and career plans tells the full story. Here’s the reality of Millennials’ work-from-home dreams, and what they want now that they’ve come “true”:
Pre-pandemic, 79% wanted to be able to work from home.
Back in 2017, when YPulse explored what Millennial employees really wanted out of work, flexibility was a recurring theme. We found that 68% of 18-34-year-olds believed they would enjoy a job more if it allowed working from home/remotely. Work-life balance and flexible work hours were some of the most important aspects of building their ideal job, with only salary beating them out. The generation has stayed consistent in their desire to make working from home a norm—in our 2019 survey on employment and career goals, 79% of 18-36-year-olds say they would like to work from home. Their desire to have the ability to work from home partly stemmed from increasing burnout: half of employed Millennials told us they often continued to do work after work hours when they got home anyway, and almost half said they were often overwhelmed by work. It’s no surprise they were looking for more remote work flexibility.
But 36% say remote work during quarantine has been a difficult transition, and 34% say they are getting less work done.
Working from home looks a little bit different during the pandemic. In theory, Millennials are getting what they wanted, but they didn’t want it like this. With 61% of employed Millennials currently working from home, there is an enormous number of this generation trying to figure out a new balance very quickly—and struggling with it. According to global health and wellness company Vitality Group, Millennials are more likely than older workers to report experiencing workplace strain, including negative effects on their anxiety, employer connectedness, sleep, diet, and exercise during COVID-19. In fact, working from home all the time under these difficult conditions, could actually be increasing their burnout. Our research on their current careers and employment shows that 36% of remotely working Millennials say that working from home has been a difficult transition, and 34% say they get less work done. Now, 80% tell us that they’re now always connected or available for work (i.e. via email or phone call)—an increase from 71% who said the same in 2019. Enforced and constant work from home was certainly not what they had envisioned, and it’s taking its toll on many.
It’s the flexibility they want: 87% say “having flexible work hours/ability to work from anywhere” is important to them when thinking of their future careers.
Working from home is still something that they want—on their terms. Pre-pandemic, 85% of Millennials told YPulse that having flexible work hours or the ability to work from anywhere is important to their future careers, and in our career survey fielded in late April, 87% still said that flexible work hours and the ability to work from home is important. That value hasn’t changed. For companies, allowing employees to work from home when they want it, and having systems and structures set up to do so, will still be vital to attracting next-generation talent. But employers shouldn’t expect that everyone will want to work from home all the time now—that’s not the future that the majority of Millennials want. In fact, 86% also agree that working in an organization with a fun environment / office culture is important to them. Older generations might roll their eyes, but yes, Millennials want the best of both worlds. They’re almost equally likely to want flexible work hours and an organization with a fun office culture—indicating that they want the option to work from home when they need to, but also a workplace that inspires them when they are there.
Ultimately, 39% are looking forward to going back to their workplace, while 32% would like to continue to work from home even after stay-at-home rules are lifted.
Millennials have had a taste of enforced remote work in this great quarantine experiment and in the end they’re more likely to say they’re looking forward to going back to the workplace (39%) than to say that they would like to to continue to work from home even after stay-at-home rules are lifted (32%). Of course, while it’s not the majority, it should be noted that this does mean almost a third of the generation would like to keep working from home full-time—that’s far from insignificant, and the future of work will likely look very different because of it. Millennial parents, who are most likely to be overwhelmed by the amount that they have to get done at home, are more likely than non-parents to say they would like to continue remote work. The flexibility it allows is all the more valued to those juggling kids’ schedules and increased housework. Post-COVID, if Millennials had their way, they could return to work on their own terms: a mix of remote work and in-person work to suit their individual needs and lifestyles.