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Graduates conflicted over starting careers remotely

The coronavirus pandemic has given graduates an appetite for remote work, but the majority still want to return to an office-based environment according to a new report.

Research from GradTouch.com has found 59% of university students in the UK do not want to work remotely when they graduate.

This conflicts with the remaining 41% who said they would rather begin their career remotely, causing potential integration issues for employers.  

The report on students’ thoughts and feelings about entering the post-pandemic graduate job market found they are not hopeful about finding work after they leave education.

While 30% said they are feeling positive about starting their careers, 70% said they think it will be a negative experience and cause them problems.

Director of people and culture at GradTouch, Clare Rutherford, said employers should be wary about how well new employees can integrate into the company if they are remote working.  

She told HR magazine: “Remote working opens you up to more diverse talent pools across the country, but it does also make it harder to assess how well they're fitting in and adapting to their new role.

“Integration into the wider team is essential for a new starter to feel comfortable and productive in their work.”

Rutherford said there are simple things employers can do to help new starters feel a sense of belonging in the workplace

“Embedding regular, company-wide catch-ups into the culture where key managers and leaders can relay their team's wins over the previous weeks is vital,” she said.  

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The research also asked students what would make them most likely to apply for a graduate job, to which 43% said a good salary and 20% said good progression opportunities.

Good brand values were also important to 28%, while 55% said they are looking for an employer that can offer good company culture.

Martin Tiplady, CEO of Chameleon People Solutions, said once the pandemic was over, students may have a change of heart about remote working.

He told HR magazine: “My own dealings with graduates is that most welcome the opportunity to shine and to show off their skills.

“They respect the fact that the most likely prospect for doing so is in the workplace whilst in close contact with management and colleagues.”

Tiplady said that while he is in no doubt that the new norm will be a combination of greater flexibility and remote working, graduates will want to socialise with their new colleagues.

“I would not underestimate the fact that many yearn to be in the workplace, with colleagues, able to engage and participate more freely with others,” he said.

The report surveyed 2,878 current students at 80 UK universities between 22 February and 1 March 2021.