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Some of Gen Z wants to return to the office out of a kind of professional FOMO

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A recent study finds that younger workers benefit from working in an office because they are more likely to receive productive feedback on their work. And as Tilda Wilson reports, it is not just feedback that younger workers feel like they are missing out on when they work remotely.

TILDA WILSON, BYLINE: On most days, 22-year-old Chris Stine works out of a bedroom in his childhood home in Manassas, Va. It's a cozy room filled with posters, artwork and lots of furniture.

CHRIS STINE: It has a couch that we bought from some cheap furniture website, and my mom had no place for it, so she put it in this room.

WILSON: Stine graduated from college just over a year ago and now works as a software engineer. We spoke over Zoom recently, and he told me he likes waking up just feet from where he has to start work every day. But when it comes to his hopes to move up and progress in his career, he's noticed some drawbacks.

STINE: I can't turn, like, my shoulder and then, like, ask somebody a question real quickly. I have to, like, formulate, like, a Slack response and, like, a message. And, like, some people are superstars about responding. Some people aren't.

WILSON: And when you're new to a company, you don't want to feel like you're bugging people all the time.

STINE: Even when they're, like, a superstar about responding, you can feel guilty about them writing an essay to answer, like, a yes-or-no question.

WILSON: A recent study on work-from-home arrangements found employees at home get a lot less feedback - 20% less than their colleagues in the office. Emma Harrington at the University of Virginia is a co-author. She told NPR's podcast The Indicator...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

EMMA HARRINGTON: We see that the effects are much more pronounced among those young workers, among those workers who are new to the company, who are the ones who have the most to learn from their more senior coworkers.

WILSON: Caroline Nestor is 25 and recently graduated law school in California. She's interned at multiple firms with hybrid working arrangements. She says working in person allowed her to meet and learn from people she never would have been able to at home.

CAROLINE NESTOR: I would knock on someone's door and say, like - do you want to go grab coffee later today? - and, like, ask them about their practice area. I had so many meals and conversations with attorneys that, like, I'd never worked with and I probably would never work with because just the kinds of cases that we would work on would be non-overlapping.

WILSON: Nestor says she was looking specifically for in-person work for her first job. Still, she can see why people in other stages of their life might be less interested in coming into the office.

NESTOR: I definitely feel that it's a difficult problem, and I also have a lot of empathy for my coworkers who have kids.

WILSON: There's a lot of empathy in workplaces now for coworkers who would have a harder time coming in every day. So a lot of companies have hybrid arrangements, work from the office when you can, stay home when you can't. Back in Manassas, software engineer Chris Stine has ventured out of his parents' house to work at his company's office in D.C. It's a 90-minute train journey he's only recently started taking a few times a week, but Stine says his office doesn't feel very in person.

STINE: There's, like, a few people that are constant, but most days it will be, like, just me, IT guy and maybe, like, one other guy, so...

WILSON: He says it can be frustrating to brave the long commute just to be stuck on Zoom calls all day the same way he would be back at home. Still, he thinks going into the physical office has been good for him.

STINE: Like, I'll talk to people, like, on the way to work and, like, on the metro. Conversations will happen. And just being around people, not being in my house alone - kind of like this - it really feels better at the end of the day.

WILSON: So much so that Stine is planning to move closer to the city so he can work in person more often, even though he doesn't have to. Tilda Wilson, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tilda Wilson