Both a mountain of surveys and employee resistance to employers who are trying to herd them back to the office makes it crystal clear that most employees deeply value the flexibility offered by remote work. But from the very beginning of the pandemic it was clear there was going to be one massive exception to this rule: young workers.
As I covered way back in July 2020, experts were already wringing their hands that remote work would be terrible for Millennial and Gen Z employees. Being out of the office may be a huge blessing when you're juggling an established career and two kids, but when you're just starting out, working from home means missing out on vital mentoring, coaching, and socialization.
"When you work remotely, mentorship is stifled because there is no learning via osmosis. You can't model your behavior on your successful teammates because you only see them on Zoom and in Slack. Whatever process they are using to achieve their results is opaque to you," founder Sean Blanda wrote, summing up the worries of many at the time.
It's confirmed: Young people really hate remote work.
New Glassdoor data shows Blanda was prescient. The recent analysis looked at interns' comments about their experiences over the last two years, and found that mentions of remote work skyrocketed over the period, shooting up 385 percent in 2020 before declining slightly from those highs last year.
And were those navigating the first rung on the career ladder thrilled with the chance to work from their old childhood bedrooms or cramped shared apartments? Not at all.
"Positive sentiment dropped rapidly in the summer of 2020 (June-September), as companies struggled to adjust to remote internships. That summer, 58 percent of interns mentioned remote work negatively in their reviews. 2021 summer interns were still largely disappointed in remote internship programs, with 70 percent of interns that mentioned remote work doing so negatively -- a 39 percent increase from the same figure (50 percent) in the summer of 2019. Several cited the difficulty of communication and connection in a remote environment," reports Glassdoor.
That's not a challenge to sum up: Interns hate remote work.
What can leaders do to improve things?
Given how hard many senior and technical employees are fighting to keep their flexibility, it's unlikely that most companies are going to go back to the traditional nine-to-five. So what can leaders do to keep their youngest employees as happy as possible? Insider spoke to a handful of experts to get some suggestions.
Improve your onboarding process: If everything is going to happen online, you best make sure that all your tech systems, log-ons, and explainers are good to go before a new young employee starts. But that's just the minimum. Toni Frana, career services manager at FlexJobs, also stressed to Insider that your onboarding process should be "warm and welcoming."
Set up online training. Many companies have nailed handling day-to-day operations remotely by now, but fewer have figured out how to offer training and career development at a distance. And young employees really need and value training. "Have you really formalized it, written it out, created a schedule of some sort? How are you involving other members of your team in really fostering this young individual talent?" asks TopResume career expert Amanda Augustine.
Offer mentoring. Mentoring is one of the biggest losses when young employees work remotely. Set your interns and entry-level hires up with someone besides their supervisor they can talk through career issues with.
Overcommunicate. Ask your youngest employees how they prefer to communicate and then bombard them with information. Remember, unlike all of us oldsters that learned by observing at the start of our careers, those entering the workforce remotely need explicit instruction in just about everything.
Make space for online socializing. A Zoom fireside chat with the CEO, a Slack channel for watercooler banter, a virtual game night. You might need to get creative to figure out ways to make a virtual internship more social, but young employees deeply value these opportunities to connect.
Check out the complete Insider article for much more advice.