ECO Article: How A Rising Generation Views Remote Work (WSJ 8.24.21)

Monday, August 30, 2021

I subscribe to The Wall Street Journal. You can read it for free through the UVA library. Here's a recent piece I thought our students would enjoy this week. The link to the full article is at the bottom of the page.
-Jen Jones

Editor’s note: This Future View discusses whether the absence of an option to work remotely would be a deal breaker for potential employees. Students should click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before Sept. 7. The best responses will be published that night.

Don’t Go Fully Remote

I enjoy the flexibility and convenience of working remotely as much as the next guy, but I don’t believe it can fully replace in-person work. I see the option to work remotely a day or two a week as a plus, but its absence wouldn’t be a deal breaker.

Face-to-face interaction is important for building employee morale and work culture. When I entered the workforce four years ago, being surrounded by my peers in an office energized me and built a sense of solidarity as we worked together. The opportunity to bump into colleagues from other teams or grab coffee with senior management added variety to the day. I think these encounters are especially important for teaching fresh graduates how to behave in a professional environment and stimulating their ambitions.


Working in Shanghai last year, when the city recovered from the pandemic around April, I saw that Chinese companies didn’t give employees any illusions that they would work from home forever. Workplaces shifted very quickly from split-shifts to back-to-office in the span of a few weeks. My co-workers’ initial reluctance quickly dissipated and everyone got back into the groove very quickly. They became thankful for more-productive face-to-face meetings and a dedicated space to work without distractions.

—Celeste Chia, Harvard University, M.B.A.

New Opportunities

Five days a week in an office is a thing of the past. Remote work, in some capacity, is bound to become the norm. It’s unlikely anyone will want to give up the flexibility. For many parents, work-life balance has become just that—more balanced. For me and other members of Gen Z, access to remote work means career opportunities aren’t constrained by geographical proximity. A whole generation of rising professionals can begin to establish careers without having to live in unaffordable cities.

—Melina Khan, Quinnipiac University, journalism

The Young and the Restless Need the Office

Remote work is ideal for parents, and it adds flexibility to the workweek that many adults appreciate. But it shouldn’t be a requirement for young people. Working remotely is less intense—which is great if you have a family or other competing responsibilities. But for workers around my age, it offers less opportunity to showcase work ethic and capabilities. I want to work my way up, and that will be harder without face-to-face interaction with superiors. I love the flexibility of a hybrid model, because it makes my workweek easier and I have more time for friends, family and hobbies. But lack of remote work shouldn’t be a deal breaker. If you’re young and looking to grow professionally, put in the time now and reap the reward of flexibility later.

—Joseph Penhallow, University of Rhode Island, economics and business administration

No Flexibility

The goal is to get the work done. How that happens shouldn’t matter as long as it is finished in a timely and professional manner. Some people work better remotely, some in-person and some hybrid. I wouldn’t take a job that doesn’t offer flexibility in work arrangement.

Not allowing for any remote work speaks volumes about the values of a company. It tells me that the company isn’t keeping up with the changing technology. Remote work is the new normal, just as keyboards are the new typewriters and smartphones are the new pagers. We embrace these new innovations because they are more efficient.

Forbidding remote work also tells me that the company cares little about the well-being of its employees—that it gives priority to profit over people, which is counterproductive anyway. Working from home saves time and expense on commuting, traveling and the rest, giving employees more time to work on their assignments. It also expands the talent pool as prospective employees are no longer limited by location. A competent company would give workers the option.

—Shawn Tran, University of California, Berkeley, public health

Firsthand Experience

Job opportunities lacking the option to work remotely seem few and far between nowadays. But in pursuing a career in civil engineering, I think the value of collaboration and site work trumps the desire to stay home. In an engineering field, one of the most important aspects of growth is firsthand experience of the real-world problems you encounter, not a PowerPoint presentation of the issue from the comfort of your own home.

—Christopher Flannery, Quinnipiac University, civil engineering

Teams Are Formed in Person

As a senior deep in the job search, I consistently see postings advertising “remote work available,” “telework options” and “hybrid working schedule.” In recent interviews these options have been floated as enticements. The problem is that I don’t want to work remotely.

I would rather take a job that requires office work without exception. The convenience of remote work, with the ability to set your own schedule, live elsewhere or travel while working, is all great. But what about the lack of office camaraderie, communication and learning? While interning remotely, I found that I never truly connected to teammates, understood office dynamics or learned where to take questions and problems when they arose. Compared with my internship this past summer, which was all in-office, the difference was night and day. I felt a part of a team, understood the office dynamics, and had a truly positive working experience.

—Benjamin Harris, Auburn University, finance

Click here to submit a response to the next Future View.