Gen Z is struggling to be productive working from home

August 1, 2020, 7:19 PM UTC
Gen Z Working From Home Productive Poll
Photojournalist Madeleine Cook and breaking news reporter Virginia Barreda work remotely at their home in West Salem on March 18, 2020.Working From HomeByline: MADELEINE COOK / STATESMAN JOURNAL, Statesman Journal, Salem Statesman Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC
Madeleine Cook/Statesman Journal/Reuters

One might assume that Gen Zers, who were born during the internet era, would thrive working from home. Nope.

At 43%, workers aged 18 to 24 are most likely to say their productivity has decreased since they started working remotely. That’s the finding from a Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll of 2,802 U.S. adults between July 17 and 21.

It does make sense: Many of these workers are early in their career, or even just starting their first post-grad job, and still learning the ropes of their new profession. That could be challenging without in-person direction or a company that understands how to properly onboard a remote worker. 

Overall, the productivity results for remote working are lackluster. Among remote workers, 29% say they’re less productive, 24% more productive, and 47% equally productive. While some workers are more productive as they cut out workplace distractions and commutes, many others, including parents affected by a lack of child care, are struggling. 

These numbers challenge the national narrative that WFH has been a success and is threatening to upend business as usual—and commercial estate in expensive cities—even after the crisis ends.

And that share of more productive workers could be misleadingly high: Many workers are being pushed to be more productive as employers lay off staff en masse, but that could reverse as the economy improves. 

At 33%, remote workers aged 25 to 34 are the only age group more likely to say they’ve seen their productivity increase rather than decline (25% say the latter). Millennials are also the age group most likely to say they’d prefer to fully work from home in the fall (48%). Compare that to 18- to 24-year-olds, the group least likely to want to WFH, at 27%. 

Among millennials, at least, WFH seems to be more than a phase. 

*Methodology: The Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll was conducted among a national sample of 2,802 adults in the U.S. between July 17–21. This survey’s modeled error estimate is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.


This is an excerpt from Fortune Analytics, an exclusive newsletter that Fortune Premium subscribers receive as a perk of their subscription. The newsletter shares in-depth research on the most discussed topics in the business world right now. Our findings come from special surveys we run and proprietary data we collect and analyze. Sign up to get the full briefing in your inbox.