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Millennials Want to Kill Office Buildings Next

Office workers increasingly want working from home to be the norm.

by Katie Way
Nov 21 2019, 8:37pm

Photo by Hero Images via Getty Images

Quick: Where would you rather be right now: in a building with a bunch of semi-strangers where everybody is breathing the same potentially filthy air, drinking the same coffee, wearing the same business casual outfits, and getting the same “motivational” emails from upper management... or in your bed? If you answered the latter, you’re not alone. The siren song of remote work is extremely powerful, and a recent survey from app development company Zapier shows more and more workers yearn to steer full speed ahead onto its glorious shores.

The survey of American “knowledge workers” found that 74 percent of respondents would quit their jobs for the opportunity to work from home for a different employer, and 26 percent had already ditched a job that didn’t allow remote work in favor of a new one that did. Fifty-seven percent of workers surveyed said the option to work remotely was among the perks they’d most want an employer to offer. Working from home beat out free lunch (which 42 percent of respondents ranked highly), and “recreational” activities like foosball or ping pong (which only appealed to 25 percent of workers).

Saving money—presumably on things like sad desk food, commuting, and whatever clothing one has to wear to adhere to a business casual dress code (as a serial media worker, I don’t know her!)—topped the list of reasons why employees are so eager to work from home. Others cited the fact that remote work makes space for family time, greater ability to care for pets and aging loved ones, environmental sustainability, and improved mental health as potential benefits. (Presumably, the response “lying down rules” was not an available option.)

From an employer’s perspective, letting your workers log on from the comfort of their couches makes sense. Research has shown that people working remotely are actually more productive, with the subjects of one study packing in an extra full day of work with the time saved due to the elimination of a commute, reduced scheduling conflicts, and increased levels of focus and concentration. But what’s good for employers isn’t always good for employees: The same study that lauded increased productivity found remote workers used fewer sick days, took less paid leave, and took shorter breaks than those who worked in an office. The decline in sick leave could be attributed to better employee health—but it could also speak to a hesitance to call out sick when you’re already technically “out of office.” And productivity derived from a decrease in leisure time (via PTO or breaks) is definitely not a good thing.

Still, 71 percent of the millennials polled by Zapier said they believe the traditional office will be “obsolete” by 2030, 10 years before we’re all scheduled to become “Emma, the Office Worker of the Future” or whatever. Sixty-six percent of respondents of all ages agreed: The office is on its way out! See ya, water cooler conversations! Ta ta, printer-related problems! We’re going digital! But in reality, remote work might look a lot less like checking emails on your couch while you deep condition your hair, and a lot more like co-working. Sure, WeWork is melting down, but local co-working spaces might be primed to fill the void it’s leaving behind—which also might not be great for worker morale, especially given the rampant loneliness many people already live with. Remote work could make bad conditions feel better, but it could also just amount to the same toil as before, just with a different backdrop.

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Co-working