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The work-from-home side effect that has CNY employers worried

Nick Lorenzo peers at the computer screen in the home office he uses at his parents’ house, March 9, 2022.
Tarryn Mento
Nick Lorenzo peers at the computer screen in the home office he uses at his parents’ house, March 9, 2022.

The remote life is familiar to Nick Lorenzo.

"I’ve spent three semesters during COVD doing this," Lorenzo said.

And now his first job out of college is remote too. But that doesn’t mean he’s a fan. It caused him to miss a lot of social experiences as a student, and now he’s questioning how quickly he can learn all the ins and outs of his new banking job. The branch is in Buffalo, while he’s working remotely from Syracuse.

"I don’t want to say I’m not productive here but maybe I’m more productive in the office," he said.

Lorenzo is part of a cohort worried about what’s missing from the in-office experience. Local research suggests employers in the region are concerned remote work makes it difficult to connect with and mentor employees.

The Siena College Research Institute surveyed hundreds of Upstate New York CEOs about business after the pandemic. Institute Director Don Levy said the leaders are worried the lack of lunchroom chats, hallway run-ins and other casual socializing can hinder a worker's progress.

"If they don’t have that informal interaction, some CEOs are very concerned that over time that will be a cost, and the development of junior into more senior people will be delayed," Levy said.

But he said companies feel forced into offering the opportunities that let workers stay remote. Employees are tough to recruit and retain to the office when they can work from their pajamas at home and avoid a commute.

From 35% to 55% of surveyed CNY businesses said they are offering flexible work hours to attract new workers and keep the ones they have. While 21% to 29% of companies said they're being flexible with where new and current employees work.

"I think it's just simply too early to tell whether, if on the negative side, this loss of the informal interaction sufficiently balances out the satisfaction of employees or the found time," Levy said.

As for Lorenzo, he’s over remote work. He moved to Buffalo and is now working in the office two days a week.

In part one of this two-story series, we look at which local industries are more remote-friendly. For the full version of this story, listen to our City Limits podcast wherever you get your podcasts or online.

Tarryn Mento is an award-winning digital, audio and video journalist with experience reporting from Arizona, Southern California, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Tarryn produces in-depth and investigative content for WAER while overseeing the station's student reporter experience. She is also an adjunct professor at Syracuse University.