Younger workers in London are leading the charge back to the office

Research shows Gen Z plans to spend more time in the office this year, to save money and still socialise during the cost of living crisis.

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Helena Young
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After two years of remote working during the pandemic, four and five-day weeks in the office are making a comeback for Gen Z, as a way to counter surging living costs.

London Heritage Quarter – the collective of four London business districts – surveyed over 2,000 workers in the capital on their office attendance levels this year. 

54% of those aged 16-24 said they plan to increase their attendance in 2023 from the current three-day average to four or five days a week. In comparison, workers aged 25 and over voted for 1-2 days in the office as their preference.

The findings suggest that Gen Z employees, who are typically on a lower salary range than older, more-experienced colleagues, are attending the office more as a way to save money. 

Last September, Startups’ research showed that it is now cheaper for employees to commute into the office than to work from home, as the global energy crisis continues to escalate household bills.

Younger workers cut back on spending as the cost of living crisis bites

According to the research, 36% of young people surveyed are also cutting down on going out and looking for more free activities to do in London, compared to 24% of respondents aged 25 and over.

Almost a quarter of employees aged under 24 also said they now actively opt for alcohol-free socialising to reduce their costs, while 24% choose to have fewer drinks after work.

Choosing to be frugal and more selective about spending might be having a positive effect on Gen Z bank accounts. 

But the decision to stay at home also seems to be leading to a surge in poor mental health amongst young people, raising fears over low employee health and wellbeing.

The research also found that 54% of Gen Z workers admit to feeling lonely and isolated at home, compared to 38% of older colleagues.

As well, 61% of Gen Z respondents report going for hours without talking to anyone when working from home, compared to 56% of older colleagues and managers.

How can small businesses respond?

Poor office attendance – as a result of the increased uptake of hybrid working – can result in a big financial hit for companies spending hundreds of thousands on rent and building maintenance. 

One survey by coworking provider, Space32 puts the amount of money lost per business at £190,000 per year.

Business owners should use London Heritage Quarter’s research to identify the pull-factors that will motivate young people to attend the office more.

Employers who are struggling with low office attendance might consider putting more money into office perks and benefits like free breakfasts and lunches, to show awareness of how rising inflation has limited employee spending.

Work parties and social gatherings are another way to improve employee engagement and develop interpersonal relationships, reducing the risk of loneliness amongst team members.

Such incentives will help to build a positive organisational culture that keeps staff feeling motivated and supported during the difficult months ahead. 

In turn, this will make it easier for managers to attract and retain young talent in the current hiring crisis.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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