Work structure in a post-pandemic world

Caroline Hendrix, Senior Writer

The pandemic has forced many people to mesh two parts of their lives together: work and home. Students experienced the initial stress of leaving their dorms and college campuses for home, where they were expected to juggle their home life on top of a rigorous class and study schedule, but an entirely different dimension of stress was added as a result of the pandemic. The combination of the sacred home-space and the necessity to get work done proved to be difficult for both students and employees. I was home for most of my second semester at the University, so I have learned to value being on campus for term and home on breaks. This is why I personally want to experience the traditional office structure. Pre-pandemic, I expected to be working in an office from nine-to-five, five days a week after graduating college. But the pandemic has shifted the priorities of people with office jobs, regardless of age. The necessary overlap of work and home has emphasized maintaining their personal lives in a culture that puts work first and thus new possibilities for office life. 

Other members of the younger generation, as a whole, seem to desire a more traditional office experience. A Bloomberg Opinion poll shows that over 60 percent of informants aged 18 to 24 prefer a hybrid work setting over working entirely from home or entirely from an office, and over 20 percent of informants in this age group prefer to work entirely from an office. The Washington Post lists reasons for the eagerness to return to or enter an office work setting, including the fact that many recent graduates do not have the space in their living area to accommodate a room dedicated to work, making it harder for them to place distance between their two worlds. The separation is a necessity for productive work and personal reflection, which is evident by the overwhelming desire to at least return to a hybrid model.

For those who are not as eager to return to the office, co-working spaces are being established. Many who are about to graduate or have graduated in the last few years are in agreement with the older members of the workforce that they need to have an equal balance between work and their life outside of work—meaning a combination of going into an office two or three days a week and working from home on the other business days. These co-working spaces allow older generations to limit their commute and leave more time for personal activities. The New York Times specifically discussed employees from New York City suburbs that are dreading commutes that they had been enduring for decades and who prefer the luxury of the pandemic hybrid model. Beyond cutting down the commute to work, creating more time and allowing an escape from distractions at home, are co-working spaces really the answer? They might make it more difficult for people who once worked on a team to meet in person if they live in distant suburbs. Co-working spaces are certainly less efficient and create more desire for the traditional office setting that has seemed to work for over a century.

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