Sometimes, I decide tomorrow will be the day I go into the office. I’ll get up early, make coffee, look for my one work shirt, grab a bagel, and take the train all the way to Fortune’s office in Manhattan’s Financial District.
But that’s often more a dream than reality. Because the next morning, I roll over and repeatedly press snooze, deciding in a sleep-induced haze it’s not the day for a 6:00 a.m. wake-up call.
While I love to escape my tiny apartment and see co-workers, it’s also hard to part with my work-from-home routine of leisurely making my own coffee, breaking for a walk in the park, and blasting music while I work.
But what I like most is that I have the choice to decide which of these worlds I want to live in each day. As a 24-year-old who graduated college in 2020, I entered the traditional corporate world while everyone was figuring out Zoom. I’ve never seen a bustling office, but I’m not sure that’s what my dreams are made of.
My behavior isn’t unlike that of my Gen Z peers, who seem to prioritize flexibility over everything. Nearly half of Gen Z workers said in an Axios Harris Poll they’d take a pay cut to work for a more flexible company. And three-fourths of Gen Zers say workplace flexibility is the top benefit they’re searching for.
But these studies seem to miss the undercurrent of anxiety as workers deal with increasing economic instability and the soaring cost of living. The oldest of us Gen Zers are in the workforce, paying rent, and possibly entering our second recession as adults. As inflation rises, milestones like buying a house and even renting an apartment begin to seem impossible. In this climate, you have to reach a certain level of livable wage to not prioritize pay.
As much as I love workplace flexibility, salary is what pays the bills. Higher pay is enough to motivate me back into the office, and I’m not the only one who feels this way: About half of Gen Zers report that they’d want to be paid 20% or more than market rate to come into the office full-time, according to a survey of new grads from the Muse.
The quest for more money is partly why entry-level workers have started job hopping. The number one reason that Gen Z said they’d leave their job in a TalentLMS survey was for a better salary. Pay was the top motivator for both Gen Z and millennials quitting their jobs in the past two years, per a recent Deloitte report.