Survey: Older workers prefer telework over younger colleagues

Emily Paine/Bucknell University.

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, more experienced workers seem more comfortable working from home while their younger counterparts are more eager to return to the comforts of an office according to a survey of U.S. workers.

According to a Bucknell University Freeman College of Management survey released this week, workers over the age of 40 perferred telework while millennials say they are more likely to return to in-person work after the pandemic. Eddy Ng, Bucknell’s James & Elizabeth Freeman Professor of Management and Andrew Lam, a graduate student at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, conducted the survey last summer. The results were announced this week. 

Ng called the survey results surprising.

“Most millennials are tech-savvy and they’re completely capable of adapting to new technology, but those individuals are much more likely to say they would like to return to the workplace,” the professor said. “They claim that they are more isolated and have a fear of missing out on the activities that are important for career advancement, and being mentored.”

Nearly a quarter of all Americans teleworked in August 2020 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the survey, 45 percent of respondents over the age of 40 would prefer to continue teleworking after the pandemic. The number is 30 percent for workers under 40.

Nearly two in three workers — 64 percent of all respondents — were satisfied with virtual work and about a third (36 percent) would prefer to continue teleworking after the pandemic. Additionally, 67 percent reported working remotely helped to improve the quality of work, and 61 percent report they were more productive.

Nearly half of the respondents (49 percent) felt that they were able to balance personal and work life, but only one in five reported that their productivity was better than it was while working in-person. Home disruptions — especially interruptions from school-age children who were home during the pandemic — could be a possible explanation, according to Ng.

Ng and Lam conclude that employers have an opportunity to improve their organizational performance by adopting telework as a long-term business strategy.

“There is potential for greater efficiency and quality of work through continued investment in resources (skills training and career support) and infrastructure (ICTs) for teleworking employees,” the report notes. “At the same time, employers will need to put in place strategies to foster greater informal connections particularly for younger employees (under 40) who are engaged in telework. Telework can be a viable alternative to in-person work and it has the potential to improve work efficiency and reduce employer costs as we move to a remote economy."

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