Younger Workers Having the Most Difficulty Working From Home

More than half of Gen Z, millennial workers say videoconferencing hurts their productivity
A laptop and earbuds

One might assume tech-savvy younger workers would be most comfortable working remotely during the coronavirus crisis, but a new survey suggests that older workers may be doing a better job of adapting.

With the emphasis placed on social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, many employers have asked staff members to work from home, in some cases, for the first time. While the idea of working from the comfort of your kitchen table might sound good, it has not been without problems, according to a survey of U.S. workers commissioned by enterprise software provider Smartsheet.

Having so many workers telecommuting has been an issue of concern, at least for some companies. For instance, a separate survey conducted in March found that many employees were worried their teams did not have the collaboration skills to work effectively from home. This new Smartsheet survey suggests such concerns may be well-founded.

A generational divide

Younger workers appear to have a more pessimistic view of the telecommuting experience than their older peers do, the survey found. An overwhelming 95% of respondents from Generation Z and 93% of millennial respondents said they have had difficulties working from home during the pandemic.

According to the survey, one of the major challenges of telework has been losing a sense of connection. While three-fourths of all workers reported feeling less connected while working from home, larger proportions of Gen Z workers (82%) and millennials (81%) felt this way.

Likewise, younger workers were more likely to say that working from home made them feel less informed about what’s going on at their companies. Specifically, 74% of Gen Z workers and 66% of millennials reported this concern, compared with 53% of Gen Xers and 50% of baby boomers.

The quest for productivity

Some workers also reported that remote working was hampering their productivity. One reason cited for this was the distraction of using videoconferences.

When employees work remotely, they must find new ways to interact, and video calls have become a popular option during the coronavirus outbreak. However, younger workers are more likely to find a downside to this sort of virtual collaboration, as 61% of Gen Z workers and 57% of millennials said the time spent on video calls was hurting their productivity. In comparison, only 35% of Gen X workers and 26% of baby boomers felt this way.

Younger workers also reported other communication problems:

  • 48% of Gen Z workers and 46% of millennials described communicating with colleagues while working remotely as “difficult,” compared with 35% of Gen Xers and 36% of baby boomers.
  • 50% of both Gen Z and millennial workers said it was hard to get status updates from co-workers when everyone is working remotely, though only 40% of Gen Xers and 39% of boomers agreed.
  • 44% of Gen Z workers and 42% of millennials said collecting the information they need to do their jobs has been difficult, as opposed to 33% of both Gen Xers and boomers.

Methodology: Smartsheet surveyed 1,004 adults during April 8-15. All respondents typically work in an office setting for companies with more than 1,000 employees but they were working at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic when the survey was taken. Note: The Smartsheet survey didn’t include definitions for the various generations, but many pollsters use cutoffs similar to those of Pew Research, which describes Generation Z as those aged 18-23, millennials as those 24-39, Generation X as covering the ages 40-55 and baby boomers as 56-74.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.