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Why Young Employees are Burned Out & Eager to Return to the Office: Glassdoor UK Survey

Posted by Joe Wiggins

Director of Corporate Communications, International

Last Updated 15 July 2021
|4 min read

With ‘Freedom Day’ signaling the end of lockdown restrictions in England on 19 July, Glassdoor, the worldwide leader on insights about jobs and companies, found that working from home due to COVID-19 has had a disproportionately negative impact on young employees in the UK.

Glassdoor researched* 2,000 UK employees who have been working from home during the pandemic to ascertain their sentiments on returning to the workplace.

Key Survey Findings:

  1. Two-thirds of employees age 18-24 fear working from home on an ongoing basis would affect their ability to get promoted.
  2. Since the start of the pandemic, younger workers, in particular, feel less able to progress in their career, less able to do their job effectively and less connected to their boss.
  3. 60% of employees aged 18-24 say they plan to quit within the next six months.
  4. 53% of all employees value flexible working as the most important work-based benefit.
  5. The main reasons for employees looking forward to returning to the office include social life (29%), free food and drink (12%), free gym (7%) and office romances (7%).

Young Employees Eager to Return to the Office

Over half (55%) of employees aged 18-24 are keen to return to the office, more than double the average of 26% for all employees. The survey suggests that there are a variety of push and pull factors in play.

Working from home does not generally seem to have been as beneficial for younger employees. Three quarters (75%) of those aged 18-24 say they feel burned out from working from home during the pandemic, compared to 39% of those aged 45-54 and 28% of those aged 55-64.

Younger employees also feel that working from home on an ongoing basis would have a negative impact on their career prospects: 65% feel it would impact their training and development (compared to 36% average for employees of all ages) and 64% worry it would affect their chances of getting a promotion (compared to 35% for all employees). 

Young employees increasingly feel disconnected from work and less motivated since the start of the pandemic:

Impact of pandemic Employees aged 18-24 All Employees
Less connected to boss 45% 25%
Less able to progress career 41% 17%
Less connected to company culture 40% 26%
Less able to do job effectively 38% 17%
Less enthusiastic about job 36% 26%
Less confident at work 28% 17%

“It seems we may have a two-speed return to work based on how far people are into their careers. Young employees will be flocking back to the office to get their careers and social lives back on track. Older workers with more experience are less keen to rush back, being more concerned about the commute and feeling less impacted by burnout

 The number one concern though for young employees upon their return? Having to make themselves look presentable and dress up for work. It goes to show that Zoom meetings definitely have their advantages.”

Joe Wiggins, Director at Glassdoor

To Fist Bump or Touch Elbows?

One of the more unusual findings of Glassdoor’s survey is that 32% of employees aged 18-24 say one of the concerns they have about returning to the office is knowing whether to shake hands, bump fists or touch elbows. 

Concern About Returning to Office Employees aged 18-24 All Employees
Having to make myself look presentable 42% 31%
Having to make small talk with colleagues 36% 23%
Not knowing whether to shake hands/ fist bump 32% 20%
Having to pretend to like my boss 23% 14%

Why Do Employees Want to Return to the Office?

Some of the main reasons why UK employees want to return to the office include:

  • Social life - 29%
  • Free food/ drink - 12%
  • Free gym - 7%
  • Office romances - 7%

What are some of the main ways young employees differ from their older colleagues when it comes to good reasons for being in an office?

Reasons for Being in an Office Employees aged 18-24 All Employees
Social life 46% 29%
Free food/ drink 34% 12%
Free gym 19% 7%
Office romances 11% 7%

Glassdoor’s survey also found that the most important perks for employees aged 18-24 are:

  • Flexible working perks (47%)
  • Office-based perks (43%)
  • Holiday perks, such as paid time off (41%) 

The priorities across all UK employees are slightly different:

  • 53% value flexible working
  • 34% value holiday perks
  • 29% value financial perks, such as bonuses, shares and special discounts

In terms of whether employees will stick around in their current job, 60% of employees aged 18-24 say they plan to quit within the next six months - three times the average of 20% for employees of all ages.

Survey Methodology

*Survey of 2,000 UK office workers who have worked from home during the pandemic conducted by OnePoll, on behalf of Glassdoor, between 29th June to 6th July, 2021.

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