Future of Work

Do I Want to Be a Telecommuter When I Grow Up? High Schoolers Ponder That Question

By Alyson Klein — April 06, 2022 2 min read
Image of an online work meeting.
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High schoolers pondering career plans ask themselves a host of questions: What kinds of work do I enjoy? How much money do I want to make? What am I good at?

Now add this one to the list: Do I want to be able to work remotely?

A survey of 11th and 12th graders in the United States and similarly aged students in the United Kingdom found that 19 percent of the 16- to 18-year-olds were taking the ability to telecommute into account in their career considerations. In fact, more than a third of the students surveyed said that if they worked remotely, they would move to a place they wanted to live because of the lifestyle or experience it offered and not plan to stick near their company’s headquarters.

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics conducted the survey of 1,000 participants in the 2022 MathWorks Modeling Challenge, an annual math contest it organizes. This year’s contest was centered on solving problems around remote work.

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A childhood photo of Alyson Klein, just before the start of 6th grade.
A childhood photo of Alyson Klein, just before the start of 6th grade.
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Students got a glimpse of what this future workplace might look like in March of 2020, when most schools in both countries closed to in-person classes and went virtual to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus.

More than half of students in the recent survey—58 percent—said they expect that their future careers will involve both in-person and remote work.

But the survey also found they have mixed feelings about the prospect of an online, or partially virtual, workplace.

Nearly 60 percent said they worry about feeling isolated, lonely, anxious, or stressed if they work primarily from home. About the same percentage thought less interaction with coworkers would make it harder to feel like they are part of a team.

A little more than a quarter worried that they would have trouble finding mentors or getting promoted if they worked mostly—or at least partly—from home. And about 1 in 5 expressed concerns about a more-competitive job market, given that employers would have fewer geographical restrictions in hiring.

On the upside, almost half of the students thought telecommuting would mean more flexible hours, which could be good for job satisfaction. Another 46 percent expected that working remotely would mean a better work-life balance, since they would spend less time commuting.

The survey also found that 40 percent liked the idea of a broader array of opportunities, since they could work in jobs headquartered outside their local area. And about the same percentage saw environmental benefits in fewer commuters.

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