It’s become one of the unwritten codes of the new hybrid office: that younger staff working from home have fewer opportunities to network and learn at work. The problem with that analysis? Younger staff don’t believe it.
New research from King’s College London showed that 40% of 16 to 24-year-olds with a workplace in the UK capital find it easier to volunteer for key tasks and ask questions when working remotely. Conversely, their older peers are more inclined to see working from home as a barrier to learning and networking.
“Younger workers are more likely to see the positive potential in how the use of technology can flatten hierarchies to allow them to ask questions, put themselves forward and build connections,” said Bobby Duffy, director of the university’s Policy Institute.
“This could be because younger workers don’t realize what they’re missing — but it could also be that older workers are stuck with an outdated view of how development can happen.”
The survey revealed a divergence in opinions with those even just slightly older. Workers between 25 and 49 years old are less likely to offer to take on key tasks or ask questions than their younger peers, the data showed.
The research highlights a generational gap at the heart of the hybrid working debate in the UK. To back return-to-office calls, managers regularly argued that in-person work is key to learning on the job, making chance connections and rising up in the office. But younger workers — who should be most concerned about tapping those benefits — see things as more nuanced.
About 20% of young workers say remote work actually helps with building connections with colleagues, the research showed. That sentiment was mirrored by only a fraction of those 50 and above.
Hybrid working can also be a money-saving strategy. Those who work from home can live in cheaper places and forgo travel costs for at least a few days a week.
The findings might also indicate trouble ahead for employers looking to force everyone back into the office. A majority of London workers would rather quit than follow a work schedule they don’t like, the research showed.
Other surveys into the changing nature of work have also uncovered tensions within office hierarchies. The latest Future Forum Pulse survey of workers in the US, UK, Australia, France, Germany and Japan found that almost 40% of executives want to work in offices three to four days a week, compared to a quarter of non-executives.
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