Gen Z and Millennials struggle with the love-hate relationship with the office
As the debate over the merits of working in person versus working remotely continues to rage in businesses and cities across the United States, one thing has become overwhelmingly clear: there is no right answer.
Some people have returned to the office full-time while others have retained the workplace flexibility they discovered during the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 60% of all U.S. workers are either remote or in a hybrid arrangement, according to an October report from the Future Forum, which also found that workers with flexible hours have the highest job-hunting scores. work-life balance and productivity.
People’s preferences for time spent onsite still vary widely: While 88% of remote-capable employees would like to be in the office three days or less, according to Gallup, they’re split on how many days, exactly, they want. come in.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed almost everything about the way we work, including what role, if any, the office should play in our lives. Some people have found it a place to regain social connections lost during the public health crisis, while others see it as an obstacle to achieving an optimal work-life balance.
As people in the United States renegotiate their social contracts with work, their relationship with the office is changing: some have found they miss their morning commute after months of working from home, while others decide to quit. their jobs in person after spending their entire career in an office to work remotely.
Desire for office after months apart
Madison Turner never thought she would work in an office again.
The 25-year-old started a remote job as a communications and marketing consultant in early 2021 and had come to love the quiet mornings she spent working from the couch or the kitchen table at home in St. Louis with her two cats, who could curl up next to her while she called clients and wrote newsletters.
But something was missing.
“I really missed the water cooler conversation I used to have with co-workers at past office jobs,” she told CNBC Make It. “I had forgotten how much I loved seeing the people I work with every day.”
Craving the sense of pre-pandemic camaraderie she would feel sitting alongside her boss in a long meeting or discussing a difficult project over lunch with a colleague, Turner decided to step down from her role. remotely after ten months and starting a new job that would require her to come into the office five days a week.
Turner started as a marketing manager at Truly Gifted, a professional gift service in St. Louis, in September — and so far, returning to the office full-time has been “incredible,” she says.
Now, Turner says she’s less tempted to work late because she’ll be leaving her laptop at the office, and it gives her more opportunities to bond with co-workers, who will often offer to grab a coffee for each other. others on their way to the office.
“I have seen the biggest improvement in my work-life balance since returning to the office full-time,” she adds. “I used to feel like work never really ended when I was remote, and I always ended up working a few hours from my couch, but now it’s easier to remember than when I’m off. the office, the job is done.”
Leaving the office in search of a better work-life balance
Gina DeGeorge loved her job in the human resources department of a large car manufacturing plant outside of Charleston — but during the pandemic it became nearly impossible to do.
Her son, who has autism, was suddenly home most mornings and afternoons while his classes and therapy sessions were online. DeGeorge had to return to the factory in early 2020 after a short spell working from home during the lockdown and struggled to find consistent childcare – she also felt her son’s progress had suffered when she was not there.
“He’s my number one priority, and I couldn’t be there for him as he needed me being away all day at work,” DeGeorge, 43, said.
“I no longer feel guilty or judged for walking away from my desk for a few minutes.”
Human Operations Coordinator at CircleCI
DeGeorge began applying for remote jobs in the spring, which she hoped would have more flexible hours. In June, she landed an offer to become a human operations coordinator for CircleCI, a remote software company.
Transitioning from in-person to remote work has “exponentially improved” DeGeorge’s work-life balance, she says, because it’s easier for her to drive her son to school and to his therapy appointments. Plus, she adds, working remotely has helped her better prioritize self-care in her schedule, whether it’s taking walks or running an errand between meetings.
“My manager really encourages us to set aside time on our schedule that we need for ourselves, whether it’s for lunch, watching our kids, or whatever,” she says. “I no longer feel guilty or judged for walking away from my desk for a few minutes.”
Married in the office more
Before the pandemic, Sinead O’Donovan considered herself an office enthusiast, always aiming to be the first in her office and the last to leave.
She started a new job as an associate at G2, a downtown Chicago-based software company, in December 2019, and was eager to learn as much as she could about the company by following her boss and attending different meetings in the office.
His excitement, however, quickly turned to exhaustion. “I worked long hours trying to catch up on things and to have time with my extremely busy boss,” she recalls. “But then I would finally come home and just need to lay down… I fell asleep a couple of times before I could even cook dinner.”
G2 ordered employees to work from home at the start of the pandemic, reopening its headquarters in 2021.
At first, 27-year-old O’Donovan was surprised at how much she enjoyed working from home. She missed the structure of walking in and out of the office every day and seeing colleagues in person – but after weeks of working remotely, O’Donovan found she had more energy and could focus better at home. she. office, where she could be headlong on a project for hours without distraction.
The company has no mandate to return to the office, but O’Donovan, who was recently promoted to chief of staff, has decided to resume her commute in August 2021, working from the office 1-2 days a week, as most of his colleagues come on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Going to the office fewer times a week has been a welcome change of pace for O’Donovan. She’s always looking forward to catching up with her boss in person — and drinking the kombucha on tap at the office — but she also sees the benefits of working remotely, like being able to drive her grandmother to a doctor’s appointment while on vacation. lunch break .
Before the pandemic, O’Donovan thought she needed to be in the office full-time to make progress at work. Now, instead of being a requirement, she sees her trips to the office as a pleasure, an opportunity to network and collaborate with colleagues she may not speak with every day.
Although O’Donovan is ready to return to the office full-time, having the freedom to choose where and when she wants to work has been “really nice,” she says.
“The work rate seems much more sustainable,” adds O’Donovan. “I’m less tired, and now I’m more excited to go to the office because it’s useful and something I choose to do instead of just something I have to do for my job.”
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