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Guest opinion: One young professional perspective on return-to-office and hybrid workplaces


Submitted by Gregory Lin

Confused. Relieved. Micro-managed. Excited. Anxious. Indifferent. Ready. These are descriptors young professionals provided when I asked how they feel about returning to the office. 

In a recent survey of over 3,600 U.S. workers conducted by the nonpartisan think tank the Conference Board, 55% of millennials questioned returning to the office. Couple that with the raft of recent articles detailing resistance from young professionals to return-to-office policies, and you get the sense of a generational divide on in-person, hybrid and remote workplaces.

Now if you read the subtext of these articles, you might get the impression that the resistance to return-to-office mirrors stereotypes of millennials and Gen Z, i.e., we’re really talking about laziness, entitlement to flexibility and free time. But I’d like to flip this around, redefine the question and approach it from a framework of equity and inclusivity. Instead, let’s ask, “What makes you successful at your job?”

The pandemic gave us all an opportunity to reflect on success in the workplace. For some of us, we learned the performance of work was separate from work performance. To get your job done, you didn’t need to dress up, be in the office, commute to work or make small talk. For others, we learned that the performance of work created the necessary separation and motivation that increased work performance. To get your job done, you did need to change your clothes to get in the right mindset, sit in a different room with your perfect work-from-home setup or meet with your co-worker every afternoon to debrief or gossip. 

We are all motivated by different internal or external factors. For young professionals, these lessons are compounded because we’ve had less experience in the traditional office model and are better able to imagine a different office model. One based on success for you. 

As we return to in-person or hybrid workplaces, managers should work with the young professionals in their organizations to define the factors that motivate success. Does this mean every young professional works best in a remote or hybrid work environment? No, but some do.

Personally, I have returned to the office. My ideal workplace that allows me to be successful is separate from my living space and filled with the noise and physical presence of people (with the option to be alone when I need to recharge). At Drake University, you’ll often find me working out of a public workspace or at Mars Cafe. 

For me, returning to the office also means returning to the local businesses that support my success, physically and mentally. When I was working from home, I was much less likely to grab a coffee from Mars Cafe or grab lunch with a co-worker at Dough Co. or Gursha. Now that I’m back in the office, I get to not only see my friends and support local businesses, but also take the necessary mental break that I often forgot to take while I was working from home.

But that is success for me. How can we have more open conversations to be inclusive of all working styles?

Gregory Lin is an assessment coordinator in the office of Institutional Research and Assessment at Drake University as well as the president-elect of the Young Professionals Connection Board. He was a member of the Business Record’s 2021 Forty Under 40 class. 

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