Gen Z hits surprising adult milestone: working in the office full-time

April 10, 2023, 12:30 PM UTC
woman at laptop
When you're new to a job, coming into the office can make all the difference.
Elizaveta Starkova - Getty Images

Gen Z is ready for the office, whether they like it or not.

Almost half (48%) of the class of 2023 who have already accepted a post-grad job say that job is fully on-site. That’s according to a survey of 2,500 graduating college seniors conducted by the LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm.

What was considered normal for past generations is a new kind of milestone for older Gen Zers, who have spent some of their college or early working lives behind the screen. But that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it—only 4% actually want to work fully remotely.

Perhaps that’s why more than a third of students LaSalle surveyed said they’re continuing to job-search despite the fact that they’ve secured a job. They’re likely looking for a hybrid arrangement, both in terms of hours and location. If you ask them, in-person still beats remote—only if it’s done some of the time.

Other research of Gen Zers currently in the workforce suggests as much. The generation is leading the pack of workers who want to go into the office, according to a new Morning Consult report, because of how productive they can be—and how many opportunities for mentorship arise—when they’re there.

“Generationally, a larger majority of Gen Z adults do most of their work in person compared with their older counterparts, and this young cohort also shows the strongest overall preference for working in an office,” the report reads. But some parts of the in-person experience still give them pause—like lengthy commutes, worse work-life balance, and a less comfortable setup compared to remote work. 

Perhaps the looming threat of putting their hard pants and button-down shirts back on is hardly as dreadful as some media coverage would suggest, as long as it’s not every day. But the overwhelming percentage of Gen Zers who have full-time jobs lined up compared to the much smaller percentage who actually want said jobs is a good indicator of where the workforce is headed.

At home, mentorship opportunities are much harder to come by

Since early 2020, when tech giants insisted remote work would be permanent, Tom Gimbel, LaSalle Network’s founder and CEO, maintained that it wouldn’t last and that when profits inevitably dipped, companies would yank employees back in. The survey results, he tells Fortune, vindicate his stance.

“Whether it’s three or four days, companies are either mandating or ‘highly encouraging’ employees to come back into the office, because productivity is higher when employees are physically together,” Gimbel says. 

That’s not Gimbel’s personal belief, he adds, and many disagree with it. Indeed, ample research finds that core hours and a half-week split in remote and in-person work is best for most people—and their output. LaSalle Network workers, Gimbel mentions, come to the office three days per week. 

But employees, especially newcomers, should come in as often as possible, he says. The training and development available to remote workers can’t compare to what’s available to their in-person counterparts, he says.

If newer employees have access to an office, Gimbel highly recommends they use it. “It can be what sets them apart from the rest and helps them make an impact right from the start—for the company and their career.”  

But once they have the hang of things, he says, hybrid work is likely the way to go. 

While some data and the Gen Z grads with full-time jobs indicate that WFH arrangements are declining, remote work expert Nick Bloom doesn’t believe that remote work is fully going away. And, as Slack’s former CEO put it, the bottom line about the return to office, wherever companies land, is that people generally don’t like being told what to do

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