Return to Office Hits a Snag: Young Resisters
David Gross, an executive at a New York-based advertising agency, summoned the troops to Zoom this month to deliver a message he and his fellow partners were eager to share: It was time to think about returning to the office.
Mr Gross, 40, had no idea how employees, many in their 20s and early 30s, would take him. The initial response – deathly silence – was not encouraging. Then a young man signaled that he had a question. “Is the policy compulsory? He wanted to know.
Yes, it is mandatory, three days a week, he was told.
So began a delicate conversation at Anchor Worldwide, Mr. Gross’ company, which is replicated this summer in businesses large and small across the country. While workers of all ages have grown accustomed to dialing the number and avoiding tiring daily commutes, younger people have become especially attached to the new way of doing business.
And in many cases, the decision to come back pits older managers who see office work as the natural order of things against younger employees who have come to see working remotely as quite normal over the past 16 years. months after the pandemic. Some new hires have never been to their employer’s workplace.
“Frankly, they don’t know what they’re missing because we have a strong culture,” Mr. Gross said. “Creative development and production require face-to-face collaboration. It’s hard to brainstorm on a Zoom call.
Some industries, like banking and finance, are taking a harsher line and insisting that workers, young and old, return. CEOs of Wall Street giants like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have indicated that they expect employees to return to their cubicles and offices in the coming months.
Other companies, especially those in technology and media, are more flexible. As much as Mr. Gross wants people to come back to his ad agency, he’s also worried about retaining young talent at a time when the churn rate is increasing, so he’s made it clear that there is room for one. lodging.
“We are in a really progressive industry, and some companies have become completely distant,” he explained. “You have to frame it in terms of flexibility. “
In a recent Conference Board poll, 55% of Millennials, defined as people born between 1981 and 1996, questioned whether to return to the office. Among Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1980, 45% had doubts about going back, while only 36% of baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, thought that way.
And if anything, the rise of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in recent days could fuel resistance from reluctant office workers of all ages.
“Among generations, millennials are the most concerned about their health and psychological well-being,” said Rebecca L. Ray, executive vice president of human capital at the Conference Board. “Businesses would be well served to be as flexible as possible. “
Matthew Yeager, 33, quit his job as a web developer at an insurance company in May after she told him he had to return to the office as vaccination rates in his town of Columbus, Ohio increased . He limited his job search to opportunities that offered entirely remote work, and in June started at a New York-based recruiting and human resources company.
“It was difficult because I really liked my job and the people I worked with, but I didn’t want to lose that flexibility of being able to work remotely,” Yeager said. “The office has all of these distractions that are taken away when you work from home.”
Mr Yeager said he would also like to have the option to work remotely in any positions he is considering going forward. “More businesses should give people the opportunity to work and be productive in the best possible way,” he said.
Even though the age division pushes managers to look for ways to persuade young hires to come back, there are other divisions. Many parents and other caregivers fear leaving home while school plans are still on hold, a consideration that has disproportionately affected women during the pandemic.
At the same time, more than one older worker rejoices in the flexibility of working from home after years spent in a cubicle, even though some in their twenties yearn for the camaraderie of the office or the vibrancy of an urban environment.
Still, the fact that so many young people are working from home is a long-standing habit reversal, said Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter, the online job market.
“The norm for so long has been that remote work in office jobs has been reserved for the older and more experienced and trustworthy people,” she said. “It’s interesting how quickly young workers have embraced this. “
When working separately, young employees lose opportunities to network, develop mentors and gain valuable experience by watching their colleagues up close, senior managers say.
In some cases, older millennials like Jonathan Singer, 37, a real estate attorney in Portland, Ore., Find themselves arguing for the return to the office with skeptical young colleagues who have become accustomed to working from home.
“As a manager, it’s really hard to get cohesion and collegiality without being together regularly, and it’s hard to be a mentor without being in one place,” Singer said. But persuading young workers to see things his way has not been easy.
“With the influence employees have and the proof that they can work from home, it’s difficult to get the toothpaste back in the tube,” he said.
Fearing the loss of one more junior employee in what has become a tight labor market, Mr Singer allowed a young colleague to work from home one day a week, knowing he would revisit the matter in the future.
“It’s just not possible to say no to remote work,” Singer explained. “It’s just not worth risking losing a good employee because of a doctrinal view that people should be in the office. “
Amanda Diaz, 28, is relieved that she doesn’t have to return to the office, at least for now. She works for the Humana health insurance company in San Juan, PR, but does the work from her home in Trujillo Alto, which is about a 40-minute drive from the office.
Humana offers her employees the option to work from their office or home, and Ms Diaz said she will continue to work remotely as long as she is able.
“Think about all the time you spend getting ready and getting to work,” she said. “Instead, I use those about two hours to make a healthy lunch, exercise, or rest.”
Alexander Fleiss, 38, chief executive of investment management firm Rebellion Research, said some employees refused to return to the office. He hopes peer pressure and fear of missing out on a promotion for lack of face-to-face interactions will keep people coming back.
“These people could lose their jobs because of natural selection,” Mr. Fleiss said. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if workers started suing the companies because they believed they were fired for refusing to return to the office.
Mr. Fleiss also tries to persuade his staff who are working on projects to come back focusing on the benefits of face-to-face collaborations, but many employees still prefer to stick to Zoom calls.
“If this is what they want, this is what they want,” he said. “These days you can’t force anyone to do anything. You can only urge.
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