Generation bed:
why under-25s can’t ‘work from anywhere’

Our home working experience data suggests that those under the age of 25 are suffering the most with working from home. For a generation that has been dealt a difficult hand already, the future workplace needs to accommodate them and the things they’ve missed out on during the pandemic.

Cries of “work from anywhere” from some of the world’s most notorious organisations miss the fact that for a huge demographic, home working is not ideal. In fact, it’s had – and will continue to have – a negative impact on social connectivity, health, wellbeing, and the ability to progress and learn on the job.

H-Lmi scores for under-25s are the lowest, meaning they have the worst experience with home working. This is largely down to work settings available in homes – a significant 72% of under-25s do not have a dedicated work room to work from at home. This group are perching from the ends of their beds, using a kitchen table where their housemates are also on conference calls, and struggling to cope with the acoustics of small, chaotically furnished flats.

Our data shows that the older an employee is, the more likely they are to have access to adequate work settings for home working, namely a dedicated work room. This explains why their home working experience is much better, as shown by their higher H-Lmi scores (75.4 for over 66 years old compared to 72.6 for those under 25). In a subset of the data that asked home working employees how many days they intend to work remotely when restrictions ease based on 48,000 respondents, 40% of those aged 55-64 intended to work remotely for four or five days. Only 27% of those aged under 25 stated the same.

Regardless of whether your background is HR, FM, CRE, or even IT, the consideration of an employee’s wellbeing is placed firmly in day-to-day activities. And rightfully so. Now that workplace has, by default, made it to executive-level agendas, the wellbeing of employees has as well. But this sadly doesn’t paint a prettier picture for the under 25s either. In fact, they’re also struggling the most with it. Only 69% have the ability to maintain a healthy work life balance and a further 30% do not feel they can be physically active when working from home – a nod to the environments they’re grappling with working from.

The social side of work is a challenge across the board, as documented by Dr Peggie Rothe, our Chief Insights and Research Officer. But yet again, the under-25s are faring the worst, with only 59% feeling connected to colleagues and 63% feeling connected to the organisation they work for, while at home. In the over-65s group, these scores were 66% and 69%, respectively. The biggest gap, however, is the ability to work productively, with the under-25s faring the worst (77%), and the over-65s, the best (88%). After a day spent video conferencing perched on the end of your bed, with poor lighting and the sound of your friend on a virtual conference in the next room, would you feel like joining your team’s virtual happy hour?

It’s not just the power to connect with, but also the power to ‘learn from others’, which is more important to the under-25s while home working than any other age group.

Yet 30% are not satisfied with their ability to do so. Those who have been with their organisation for less than six months (i.e., those who were recruited during the pandemic) also feel that ‘learning from others’ is more important than longer-serving employees – as addressed by our Development Director Kyle de Bruin, in his piece on the crises of learning.

The younger generation haven’t had the easiest start to their working careers. And now, they’re working in distress, in their homes – spaces not designed for working – with their progression potentially stunted by the fact employees can apparently “work from anywhere”. This could be a dangerous mantra for key demographics of the workforce if misconstrued. The evidence that under-25s will struggle to succeed in this type of work setting needs to be acknowledged and strategies need to take into account what we have learned.

Workplace is a moveable feast; we must move with the times, adapt and pivot but most of all, continue to support the employees in the spaces they use.

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