Will Millennials Flee Cities – Creating More Generational Divide at the Office?

Will Millennials Flee Cities – Creating More Generational Divide at the Office?

Any way you look at it, COVID-19 has generated significant change in the way people live and work – of all generations.

By early May of 2020, approximately 61% of employed Millennials were working from home and, of that group, 36% say that working from home has been “a difficult transition”; in addition, 34% say they’re “less effective” at getting work done. In fact, 39% are “looking forward to going back to their workplace.”

On the other hand, 32% would like to continue to work from home. That’s a fairly even split. And, even more interesting, Millennials who want to return to an office environment want to do so on their terms – with flexibility to be able to work from home, too.

This is having a chilling effect on the real estate market even now, as Millennials, the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, figure out where they want to live and work.

According to a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers, 27% of U.S. adults are considering moving their homes because of COVID-19; the survey was completed by 1,004 people over a 3-day period from May 22 to May 24, 2020Of the Millennials who took the survey, 43% indicated that they are considering a move – and in the context of this survey, this meant moving from an urban area to a less densely populated area, such as the suburbs or rural areas.

With restrictive CDC recommendations about how to move back into office buildings in a COVID-19 world, it appears that more and more pressure will be put on floor space – having more of it then may be affordable in urban areas – and the need to avoid  elevators, which are small, confined, and crowded.

With this need for space and a greater accommodation than ever for work-from-home situations, the new normal may precipitate a move by some younger workers from what were popular Millennial urban areas and office buildings to more suburban or rural areas.

What does this mean for the multiple generations in the workplace? And for digital marketing? Here are some of my thoughts on this, as I prepare to get my new book ready for print: OK, Boomer! Revelations of a Baby Boomer Working with Millennials.  

  1. Increased Age Diversity in The Office

Up through this time last year, urban areas have been growing, and “young adults aged 25 – 34 have been key movers in the urban revival.” As early as the 1990s, younger generations (Gen X’ers and then Millennials) were moving back into the cities from the suburban life their parents had chosen.

However, the most recent research post COVID-19 seems to indicate a potential reversal in that trend, as Millennials (especially those with children) are looking to move back into more suburban areas. If businesses move in that direction – following the human resource talent, and closing or shrinking their downtown office space while opening or expanding more suburban offices – this could mean even more diversity in the workforce in these locations. Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers who had moved to these areas – to buy homes, raise families, etc. – may find themselves with a new influx of younger colleagues. With the current friction between the generations in offices now, this might exacerbate these differences even further.

2) Digital Marketing – Social Channels

If there is a small exodus from cities to outer geographies, or even smaller cities across the U.S., there may be an even greater need for a sense of community within this disbursement. Social channels and apps such as Next Door, Meetup, and even Citizen, as well as others that encourage community information and gatherings, may grow in importance. For digital marketers, this means these channels and others like them may grow in their significance as new ways to reach young Millennial families.

3) New Parenting

Looking at the one-third (32%) of the Millennials surveyed who would like to keep working from home, it’s interesting to note that this may also signify Millennial attitudes toward parenting. As of 2020, Millennials range in age from to 24 – 39, and many of those in their 30’s are now parents of young children. Working from home has allowed them the flexibility to get work done while spending time with their families, although this duality has also been difficult because their children are always present (i.e. not in school or in daycare, for example).

If many Millennials move back to the suburbs, where many grew up with Baby Boomer parents, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in their roles as parents and their involvement in community education and other local issues.

Interested in a sneak peak at my new book: OK, Boomer! Revelations of a Baby Boomer Working with Millennials? Contact me and I’ll send you a chapter!   


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