Working from home has made it easier for younger employees to volunteer for tasks and build rapport with their colleagues, which could potentially have a positive effect on their careers.
Research by Kings College London has challenged the idea that people in their early careers prefer to work in offices in order to develop at work.
Forty per cent of London-based 16- to 24-year olds who work from home at least one day a week said they found it easier to put themselves forward for important tasks when working with colleagues remotely, while 45% thought remote working has made it easier to ask questions about things they are unsure about.
The study, which involved more than 2,000 workers, exposed considerable differences in experiences of remote working across age groups. One in five (21%) younger workers felt it was easier to develop relationships with colleagues while working from home, but 55% of employees across all age groups said remote working has made this more challenging.
Nearly half (44%) of younger workers found it easier to be honest with colleagues when working from home, compared with 16% of workers aged 50+.
Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, said: “A key concern for many business leaders is how our new hybrid way of working will affect the development of younger staff just starting out in their careers. Development often comes from observing others, and opportunities from chance connections made when people get together. But our study shows that younger workers don’t share these concerns to the same extent as older workers.
Working from home
“This could be because younger workers don’t realise what they’re missing – but it could also be that older workers are stuck with an outdated view of how development can happen. 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.
“But concerns do remain among both old and young about what we might lose, so, as with hybrid working generally, the task for leaders is to focus on extracting the best from both ways of working.”
The study also found that 41% of London-based workers felt better equipped to do their job than they were before the pandemic shift to remote working. Only 10% said they felt less able to do their job well.
Around half of those who worked from home all of the time (53%) and hybrid workers (47%) felt better equipped to perform well in their job – more than double the proportion (21%) who work in an office everyday.
Younger workers were more likely to report a positive change in their job performance than older workers.
The study also finds that:
- 82% of London’s home workers who feel positive about remote working agree it has increased their level of control over their work-life balance
- Higher earners are more likely than lower earners to cite freedom and control as a key reason they enjoy
working from home
- 65% would quit if their employer made them follow a work pattern they did not like
- 61% of employees are not aware of efforts by their employer to encourage them back into the workplace
- Two-thirds of London workers now work in a hybrid way, with Mondays and Fridays the least popular days to go into the office
- Only 9% worked solely at home and 19% worked in the office for five or more days a week.
Michael Clinton, professor of work psychology at King’s Business School, said: “The benefits of hybrid working for London workers are clearly laid bare by our survey findings. But what we are also seeing now is some potential trouble on the horizon: while workers can maybe complete more tasks from home in a more stress-free environment, organisations allowing too much of this are probably missing out on the complex, messy and collaborative outcomes workers only achieve together in a room.
“If employers start to force people back into offices there will be a backlash and workers may quit. So, striking the right balance is going to be key – both for workers who want to retain their new-found sense of control, but also for the workers looking for a vibrant work culture.”
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