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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The post-pandemic working world is rapidly normalizing remote work — but the next generation of workers is wary of the change.

What's happening: Transitioning to remote work is far easier for veteran employees who have already developed social capital in the workplace and know how a company operates. Freshly minted members of the workforce stand to miss out on those valuable skills and opportunities if they can't come back to the office.

Driving the news: A whopping 40% of college students and recent graduates prefer fully in-person work, according to a new poll by Generation Lab, a polling and research firm that tracks trends affecting youth.

  • Another 39% want a hybrid workplace, 19% want to work remotely and 3% say they have no preference.

Why it matters: That's starkly different from the numbers across the rest of the workforce. Just 12% of all office workers want to go back full time, per a recent Slack survey. The rest are looking for a remote or hybrid workplace.

When asked what they'll miss in a remote future, 74% of young people say the office community and 41% say mentoring.

  • 66% of respondents want in-person feedback from their managers, rather than receiving a written report or chatting over Zoom.
  • 33% of respondents don't want to miss out on office amenities. The perks at company headquarters — like snacks and gyms — may be disappearing as firms downsize.

Younger workers are likelier than their older colleagues to live in close quarters with roommates or with parents. 45% of respondents say they worry about having access to distraction-free workplaces in a remote or hybrid future.

  • And older workers have more established personal networks as well, which has made them more able to move away from their workplaces, either to suburbs with nasty commutes or to entirely new cities in anticipation of remote work.

"I like the extra motivation to go home at the end of the day and the ability to separate work life from home life based on place and location," says Jenny Conant, a rising senior at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. It's also easier to read colleagues' body language in-person than online, Conant says.

The stakes: "They're missing out on the socialization and the chance to make the contacts and relationships you make in the workplace that lead to other things," says Jeffrey Arnett, a psychologist at Clark University, who coined the term "emerging adults" for 18- to 29-year olds.

  • Younger workers may get more out of the social component of offices — nearly a quarter of Americans meet their spouses at work — than their older counterparts who may already have families and established networks.

"Anxiety and depression has gone up in the emerging adult age group," Arnett says. "It can be a lonely time of life already. ... For them especially, remote work may have been isolating."

The bottom line: The remote revolution is underway, with companies shutting down offices and people making cross-country moves — but younger workers could save physical workplaces.

  • Managers and CEOs will have to figure out how to give their new talent the sense of community and provide mentorship opportunities if they want to effectively recruit and retain.

Methodology: This study was conducted July 2–7 from a representative sample of 544 students and recent graduates nationwide. The margin of error is +/- 4.2 percentage points. The Generation Lab conducts polling using a demographically representative sample frame of college students at community colleges, technical colleges, trade schools and public and private four-year institutions.

Go deeper

Unruly customers threaten economic recovery

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The pace of the economic recovery hinges in part on workers returning to jobs that involve dealing with an unpredictable public. But many of those workers say increasingly combative customers — angry about everything from long wait times to mask mandates — have prompted them to quit.

The big picture: Aggressive and violent clashes between customers and service workers over COVID safety protocols over the past nearly two years have led to prison sentences, fines and deaths.

Former D.C. Guard alleges Army Generals lied about Jan. 6 response

Members of the National Guard and Capitol police keep a small group of pro-Trump demonstrators away from the Capitol following the insurrection on Jan. 6. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A former D.C. National Guard official has alleged that top Army generals "lied" to Congress in their testimony on the U.S. Capitol riot, Politico first reported Monday.

The big picture: Col. Earl Matthews, who was serving on Jan. 6, alleges in a memo that the official version on the military response is "worthy of the best Stalinist or North Korea propagandist" and that the Pentagon inspector general's November report on it features "myriad inaccuracies, false or misleading statements, or examples of faulty analysis."

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

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