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Gen Xers and boomers are giving up on hybrid work: They're either all in or out on the office

Juliana Kaplan,Noah Sheidlower   

Gen Xers and boomers are giving up on hybrid work: They're either all in or out on the office
  • Workers aged 50-64 are most likely to be fully on-site or work from home full time, new data shows.
  • Workers in that age group are least likely to work hybrid, compared to nearly a third of workers aged 20-29.

America's older workers aren't the type to spend some days at home in pajamas — they're more likely to go all in on the in-office hustle.

New data from the Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes, a monthly survey that has been running since May 2020, found that workers aged 50-64, which spans older Gen X and younger boomers, are fully on-site the most — and are also the most likely to work from home full time. The survey examined where workers of different ages clocked in from February through May 2024.

This contrasts with Gen Zers and younger millennials, who are the least likely to be fully on-site and most likely to be hybrid.

According to the data, which measured over 13,200 workers, those aged 50-64 were fully on-site more than two-thirds of the time, over 11 percentage points more than those 20-29. Meanwhile, those 20-29 were most likely of any age demographic to work hybrid at nearly a third, almost double the rate of those 50-64.

Still, those 50-64 were most likely to work fully remotely, while those 20-29 were least likely. The authors defined a full workday as six or more hours.

Overall, about 27% of all paid days in May 2024 were worked remotely, down slightly from earlier this year. Among employees able to work from home, nearly 38% have zero work-from-home days, while those in the finance and information sectors are likelier to have two to three remote days. Employees able to work from home predict that a year from now, their employer plans for them to work 2.2 days each week from home.

This data comes as supercommuting — workers traveling over 75 miles to their jobs — is on the rise, according to research by Stanford University economists Nick Bloom and Alex Finan. Supercommuting increased by 32% post-pandemic, while the share of commuters over 40 miles across the country's 10 largest cities also saw a large uptick.

Jose Maria Barrero, one of the survey's lead researchers and an assistant professor of finance at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) Business School, told BI that he believes two effects are driving the "polarization" among older workers.

"On one hand, those older workers need less mentoring and networking than younger ones. That means they can afford to be fully remote and might feel really comfortable doing things on their own," Barrero said. "On the other hand, these folks have decades of experience and habit coming into the office. So that muscle memory might push them to come in more often than younger workers who embrace hybrid."

Indeed, many older workers BI has spoken to are divided on whether they want to be in-office or at home — but they're willing to leave roles that don't cater to their preferences. Dennis C., a 65-year-old, quit a six-figure job when his managers wanted him to return to the office three days a week.

"When they said that I was going to have to come back, I sent them an email saying I'm retiring," he previously told BI. He took a slight pay cut to move into a fully remote role.

Conversely, 62-year-old Charles Bond decided to retire early rather than work remotely. He said he didn't want to bring his work home with him, and he liked being around others on his team; they're still friends.

"I need to be around people. I enjoyed my team. I worked there 27 years," Bond previously told BI. "There were people there that had worked there just as long as me, if not longer. They were like a family. They were like my second family."

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