Millennials are the reason you can still work remotely


Nike recently announced a new return-to-office policy requiring employees to work at the company headquarters four days a week starting in January. The company emphasized the benefits of in-person collaboration but some employees are concerned about the reduced flexibility. This decision reflects a broader trend as companies like Apple and Goldman Sachs also push for full-time office returns, leaving many employees feeling pressured.

The issue isn't the return to the office itself, but rather the motivation behind such mandates. Many leaders driven by fear make these decisions, leading to a pervasive culture of anxiety in the workplace. Fearful leadership, often motivated by a desire for control and authority, has been found to cost the U.S. economy billions in lost productivity. Additionally, leaders relying on fear tend to create stressful work environments, mistakenly believing that stress motivates employees.

To address this, leaders should transition from fear-driven leadership to "love leadership." This approach involves the following steps:

1. Respect Boundaries: Leaders should model healthy work-life balance and communicate responsibilities clearly to create a productive work environment.

2. Acknowledging Good Work: Leaders should appreciate employees' contributions and avoid constant criticism, as this can lead to employee turnover.

3. Welcoming Feedback: Encouraging honest employee feedback and incorporating it into decision-making fosters engagement and retention.

4. Encouraging Collaboration: Leaders who promote collaboration build trust and improve performance, leading to higher productivity and satisfaction.

5. Embracing Humility: Leaders should acknowledge the strengths of the entire team and create an environment where all members feel valued.

Ultimately, regardless of office mandates, employees are more likely to give their best when they can trust their leaders to be brave, clear, and fair. Love leadership values listening, responding, and addressing challenges directly.  

If you're working from home today — or in an empty office — you can thank (or blame) a millennial.

In the great return to office battle, hybrid seems to have won out as the preferred mode of working for companies and workers alike. But some groups are making more appearances in the office than others.

Across multiple datasets, one generation — millennials — disproportionately want to work from home, Nick Bloom, a Stanford economist and work-from-home expert, told Insider. People in their 20s typically want to be in the office three to four days a week to socialize and get mentorship — "and because home is often a cramped apartment share."

Going into the office is a desire that cuts across generational lines, unifying groups that aren't often in alignment: Gen Zers, Gen Xers, and boomers.

"Folks in their 50s and above are more likely empty nesters and are used to decades of office work so also seem keen to be mostly office based," Bloom said. The big push for remote work comes from millennials: According to Bloom's research alongside José María Barrero and Steven J. Davis, work-from-home intensity — measured by the percent of paid full days worked from home — is highest among people in their 30s and early 40s.

Bloom chalks that up to this age cohort having younger kids, tending to live in larger houses, and facing "full lives" outside of work. His survey data similarly finds that people with children work remotely at higher rates than their childfree peers.

It's true that many millennials, especially those with younger children, made major changes during the pandemic's reconfiguration of work. Low-interest rates led to a spate of frenzied home buying. Millennials, who were previously left reeling by the Great Recession, were all of a sudden winning the Great Resignation and, for some, making enough money to move up and out.

And move they did. Workers ages 30 to 39 — particularly those ages 30 to 34 — saw the distance they travel to work skyrocket up the most from their pre-pandemic commutes, per an analysis from Gusto and Stanford based on Gusto payroll data. From 2018 to 2019, 30 to 34-year-olds were traveling 9.02 miles to work. As of 2022 to 2023, that distance had more than doubled.

That data paints a clearer picture of how remote work has created new segments of workers. It's becoming increasingly clear that younger workers — many of whom spent a stretch of their early careers or education on Zoom — are lonely, or just want more mentorship, and prefer at least some in-person work. But the problem those Gen Zers face is that while they're in the office, their bosses are not.

And older workers, who have spent decades in the office, might also miss that face-to-face work. Charles Bond, a 62-year-old in Southern California, previously told Insider that he decided to retire early rather than work remotely. While he realizes it may be a boon for people with younger kids, or those who faced long commutes, it didn't work for him — and he treasured the lifelong friendships he made from decades of in-person work.

Of course, remote work has been life-changing for some. Plenty of workers have told Insider that they quit their roles rather than return to the office. Even those who are going in are trying to retain their newfound flexibility — don't expect to see white-collar workers in person on Fridays, or even Mondays. And those who are full-time remote, or vying for the increasingly limited number of remote roles, might just have millennials to thank for their continued ability to work from home.

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