Surprise! Millennials actually want to work in the office! Here’s why:
Working from home now accounts for more than 60% of U.S. economic activity due to the pandemic, but two major surveys reveal that remote working is hardly ideal for the younger generations.
A survey of U.S. office workers by ENGINE INSIGHTS showed that 95% of Generation Z and 93% of Millennial workers have difficulty working from home, and Gensler’s U.S. Work from Home Survey 2020 found that the younger generations are less productive and less satisfied working from home.
According to Gallup’s “How Millennials Want to Work and Live” Report, Millennials seek a work environment that fosters development and meaning, but working from home lacks face-to-face interactions and can lead to not feeling connected to one’s work. Highly engaged environments and social connections are very important to the younger generations’ productivity, and offices help support face-to-face collaborative and serendipitous moments.
Despite being viewed as the most tech-savvy employees, younger generations prefer to work in an office environment. Here are two key reasons why:
Reason 1: Millennials like people, but they lack social skills. Offices provide the social atmosphere Millennials crave and need.
Unlike older generations, Millennials are less likely to join professional associations or Rotary Clubs to meet people, since the connections and information those groups provide can easily be found online. Millennials grew up in the digital age and have not had the social experiences of prior generations to prepare them for branching out. But Millennials want social connections.
Consider that 53% of Millennials said they do not know where to meet new people and 48% of them struggle to go out of their way to be social. Coming into an office is a chance for them to effortlessly connect face-to-face with others— an opportunity not easily found elsewhere. 88% of Millennials want to work in more “social” settings with the majority desiring their coworkers to be a “second family.”
As a result, work-from-home policies have 82% of Gen Z and 81% of Millennials feeling less connected. Jim Coleman, head of economics at WSP in London, explains, “For people at the start of their careers, there’s probably more desire to be with other people because you’re still learning and you want the experience and the social life that goes with it.”
Millennials also crave supportive social connections to help maintain mental health wellness—a must to perform most effectively in the workplace.
Bottom line: The younger generations desire in-person company, and office environments help provide an easy way for them to bond through face-to-face interactions.
Reason 2: Too much videoconferencing feels awkward, and it’s not conducive to productivity.
Both surveys show that Millennials and Gen Z are less productive working from home. Videoconferencing (e.g. Zoom calls) are draining because younger generations were using video calls for social connections, doctor’s appointments, workout classes and even religious services long before the pandemic hit. This creates a “screen overload,” making it difficult to draw the line between work time and non-work time. 61% of Gen-Z and 57% Millennials said that time spent on daily work video calls is getting in the way of their work.
Zoom meetings are vastly different from in-person meetings. For instance, in a typical in-person meeting there are multiple people collaborating, taking notes, looking elsewhere, etc. In Zoom meetings, participants are forced to engage in a “mutual constant gaze,” looking directly into the eyes of one another; it’s uncomfortable and it’s distracting. Each person stares right at you from the screen for the entire meeting — awkward!
“It’s a challenge to have such direct contact on video calls with people you normally wouldn’t in person,” Wall Street Journal writer Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, explains. “These forced violations of personal space upset the equilibrium of intimacy.”
The younger generations associate videoconferencing with social FaceTime calls. It’s confusing for them to jump on a video conference call and associate the purpose with work. It’s also unsettling because, while people don’t feel self-conscious video-calling a loved one, when you see yourself on camera in front of strangers or work acquaintances it adds a layer of self-consciousness that is exhausting. You are not only highly attuned to others’ nonverbal cues but are also more focused on your own.
Bottom line: Videoconferencing is interfering with the younger generation’s productivity, focus and engagement levels.
Companies should take a fresh look at how space can foster an environment that creates collaboration and productivity. The strongest companies will understand how to use their office space to recruit and retain the younger generations who seek highly engaged environments and social connections.
To help leaders understand how to optimize their Millennial workforce, we offer a host of diverse office space options with flexible lease or ownership terms. The City Center team is made up of experts in everything from urban revitalization to amenities that attract millennials. Contact City Center today to find out how we can give your business a competitive advantage.
Watch why younger generations love working in Downtown Allentown
 Bloom , Nicholas. “How Working from Home Works Out.” Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, 1 June 2020, siepr.stanford.edu/research/publications/how-working-home-works-out.
 Landrum, Sarah. “Millennials Are Happiest When They Feel Connected to Their Co-Workers.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 19 Jan. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/sarahlandrum/2018/01/19/millennials-are-happiest-when-they-feel-connected-to-their-co-workers/.
 Team, PGi Blog. “The Next Big Wave: How Millennials Influence the Workplace.” PGi Blog, 30 Apr. 2018, www.pgi.com/blog/2013/06/the-next-big-wave-how-millennials-influence-the-workplace/.
 Perna, Mark C. “Why Working From Home Is Tougher Than We Thought.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 13 May 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/markcperna/2020/05/11/working-from-home-is-tougher-than-we-thought/.
 Perna, Mark C. “Why Working From Home Is Tougher Than We Thought.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 13 May 2020,
 Bailenson, Jeremy. “Opinion | Why Zoom Meetings Can Exhaust Us.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 3 Apr. 2020, www.wsj.com/articles/why-zoom-meetings-can-exhaust-us-11585953336.