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Different Generations Working from Home

Woman in yellow shirt working from home

My morning commute while working from home? Two steps to the kitchen, where the only traffic jam involves navigating the overflowing cereal drawer. It’s far from the symphony of honking horns and bleary-eyed faces of people driving into the office every day. Working from home can bring positive work experiences to many people, whether they’ve clocked in 30 years or 30 days. Let’s dive into how different people may be experiencing the work-from-home lifestyle, and why they’ve grown to love it.

First, let’s talk about Nana. With over 30 years of conquering the business world, she’s traded in her power suit for pajamas and has grown to love the use of technology and enjoys learning about it from younger colleagues. Sure, she misses the water cooler gossip and celebrating birthdays at the office with her peers, but for her, the lack of rush hour is a godsend. With her newfound love for technology and all it can do; she’s discovered the joys of online yoga classes and blasting disco music during lunch breaks. Now that’s something you might not be able to do at the office.

My brother, the late twenty-something year old, thrives on the flexibility of working from home. At his company, there aren’t rigid schedules, and there’s no dress code (though I suspect the occasional Hawaiian shirt makes an appearance). So for the most part, it’s just him and his laptop conquering deadlines from the comfort of his beanbag chair. He definitely misses the post-work beers with colleagues, and the casual brainstorming sessions that sparked his best ideas, but hey, who doesn’t love working in a beanbag chair from the comfort of your own home? The occasional trip to the office can help him fulfill the lack of socialization and in-person conversations, but working from his quiet apartment for most of the time has been a positive experience for him.

Then there’s dad, the guy caught in the middle between Nana and my brother. He appreciates the quiet focus time and the freedom to set his own pace, but something feels lost without the spontaneous water cooler conversations and the camaraderie of shared lunches with peers. Maybe it’s the human connection, or the feeling of being part of something bigger than our living room walls. His company has developed more of a hybrid work model, where some days they are home, and some days they make the commute. Having that time in the office with his colleagues while still having quiet time at home has been the best solution for him. What can I say, he loves to chat with his office buddies!

Lastly, there’s me, the recent college graduate who recently entered the workforce while everyone was already working from home. Or at least it felt like everyone was already working from home. It sure is nice not having to worry about a commute, putting milage on my car, and figuring out what to wear every day. Plus, developing my own routine and schedule has been a game changer, especially since I am very type-A when it comes to work tasks. Companies encouraging one or two office days per week can be a great way to see and interact with colleagues in-person and can help spark conversations and ideas that otherwise might not have occurred.

Thinking about the lifestyle differences of employees, how can businesses navigate this multi-generational landscape and foster a sense of connection (and productivity) while everyone’s scattered across the map? Here are a few examples of ways to help employees of all ages connect during the work week while working from home:

  • Virtual water cooler moments: Create dedicated online spaces for informal chats, coffee breaks, and even virtual yoga sessions. Let Nana teach us the Macarena, and maybe my brother can finally decipher her boomer sense of humor.
  • Embrace asynchronous communication: Not everyone works a 9-to-5 anymore. Allow for flexible scheduling and encourage communication tools that respect different time zones and working styles. After all, some people have more responsibilities outside of work such as kids, furry friends, or appointments.
  • Invest in collaboration tools: Real-time project management platforms, shared documents, and virtual whiteboards can keep everyone on the same page, even if they’re miles apart.
  • Remember the human touch: Send handwritten birthday cards, organize virtual team-building events, and encourage video calls beyond just formal meetings. Small gestures can go a long way in building relationships across the virtual divide.

This work-from-home model seems to be the new way of life for those with certain job titles or for those who work in a traditional office. Now of course, things can change depending on your company, but for the most part, working from home has been an adjustment that people of all ages have had to work through. While some may miss the office water cooler chats more than others, there are ways that companies can foster deeper connection between employees who crave that social interaction.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Nana just challenged me to a virtual dance-off. Wish me (and my knees) luck.