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Graduates prefer hybrid work but feel pressure from employers

April 2024

Hybrid working is the best environment for productivity, wellbeing and skills development, according to graduates surveyed by Prospects

However, a significant proportion of those working in a hybrid or fully remote way believe that their employer wants to see them in the office or workplace full time. users were surveyed between 11 January and 11 February 2024 for the annual Early Careers Survey. As part of that research, 2,777 graduates gave their views on remote, hybrid and on-site working arrangements.

Hybrid and remote work increase with age and experience

Overall, 51% of graduates attended the office or other workplace, 40% had a hybrid setup, and a minority of just 9% worked entirely remotely. However, these figures vary depending on graduates' age, the year they graduated, and their job level.

A higher proportion of those aged 24 and below worked on-site (58%), with 35% hybrid and 7% fully remote. Just less than half (49%) of graduates 25-years-of-age and older were on-site, 41% hybrid and 10% remote.

Meanwhile, those who graduated in 2023 were much more likely to attend the office or workplace, with 63% doing so, compared with 47% of graduates from 2018 or before.

Graduates' work patterns also differed by the level of seniority of their role. Those in entry-level jobs were most likely to work in-person (58%) and least likely to have a hybrid arrangement (35%). By contrast, executives and senior management tended to work hybrid (47%) or fully remote (18%).

Graduates' working arrangement by job levelEntry levelIntermediate or experiencedManagementExecutive or senior management
Attend the workplace (in the office or on-site)58%47%49%35%
Hybrid working (mix of working at home and in the workplace)35%43%42%47%
Remote working (at home or in a local co-working space)7%10%9%18%

This could be because younger graduates, those who graduated most recently, and those in entry level roles are more likely to still be in training or induction periods, during which they may be required by their employer to be on-site at the office or workplace.

In contrast, more senior staff have the experience, workplace knowledge and trust of their employer to be given the freedom to work away from the office more frequently.

Graduates prefer hybrid work if given the choice

Hybrid and remote working became much more common as employers adapted to office closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, four years later, this flexibility continues to be popular, with site data indicating that interest in the topic is at its highest ever level. From 2022 to 2023, there was an 186.7% increase in traffic to Prospects content about online/remote studying and work.

Responses to the Early Careers Survey also show graduates have a strong desire for hybrid and remote working options to be made available by employers when possible. Asked about their personal preferences, 60% favoured hybrid work, while on-site and remote work were tied on 16% each. Just 7% had no particular preference.

The clear overall preference for hybrid working is supported by further findings from the survey, which indicate that those working in a hybrid or remote environment were less likely to want to leave their employer this year than those who attended the office full time.

The data can be broken down further. For example, there was a stronger preference for entirely remote working among graduates who self-identified as neurodivergent (21% of that group as opposed to the 15% of neurotypical graduates who said the same).

Graduates with a disability were more likely to prefer remote work (24%) than those without a disability (15%). They were also less likely to choose the office or workplace as their favoured setting, by 12% to 17% compared with those without a disability.

Hybrid working rated best for productivity and wellbeing

Asked to rate in-person, office and hybrid working environments on a range of factors, graduates put hybrid top for productivity, skills development, and wellbeing. Remote working also scored very well for productivity and wellbeing.

Working in the office or other workplace had the edge for communicating with colleagues, feeling part of a team, getting support from managers and, just narrowly, for technical/IT support.

Which working environment do you think is best for...?Attend the workplaceHybrid workingRemote workingNo preference
Communicating with colleagues67%24%5%5%
Developing your skills37%41%13%10%
Feeling part of a team64%26%3%6%
Getting support from managers42%36%7%15%
Technical/IT support31%28%17%25%

Neurodivergent graduates were more likely to say that remote working was better for their wellbeing (30%) than neurotypical graduates (22%). Individuals with a long-term health condition or disability were also more inclined to say that remote working positively impacted their wellbeing (31%) compared to those without such conditions (22%).

When it comes to communication with colleagues and feeling part of a team, individuals without a disability or health condition tended to favour the workplace, but those with a health condition or disability said that remote working provided a more suitable environment.

These findings highlight the importance of recognising that a one-size-fits-all approach to work environments may not suit everyone. Individuals have diverse needs, and it is crucial that employers provide the flexibility to meet those needs.

Graduates think employers want them in the office

There has been much discussion - ever since the rise of hybrid and remote work during the pandemic -  of employers expressing a desire for staff to return to the office. Some have predicted a complete return to the office by 2026 and there have been suggestions that pay and progression could be tied to workplace attendance.1

Graduates were asked for their perceptions of their employers expectations. Over half of respondents (57%) said they believed their employer wanted them in the office full time, while nearly a third thought their employers were happy with hybrid working.

How do you think your employer would prefer you to work?,Percentage of graduates
Attend the workplace (in the office or on-site),57
Hybrid working (mix of working at home and in the workplace),32
No preference,6
Remote working (at home or in a local co-working space),5

Over half (51%) of remote workers think their employers would prefer them to work in a  hybrid way or attend the office full time. Meanwhile, 29% of hybrid workers believe their employers would prefer full-time workplace attendance.

Graduates in entry-level positions were most likely to think their employer wanted them in the workplace full time (62%) and executive and senior management were least likely to say this (48%). The latter were also more likely to believe their employers preferred hybrid and remote working.

How do you think your employer would prefer you to work? By current job levelEntry levelIntermediate or experiencedManagementExecutive or senior management
Attend the workplace (in the office or on-site)62%54%56%48%
Hybrid working (mix of working at home and in the workplace)27%35%34%44%
Remote working (at home or in a local co-working space)5%5%6%7%
No preference6%7%4%2%

Most entry-level graduates working from bedroom

Overall, when working hybrid or remotely, most graduates choose to work from home rather than utilising local spaces like libraries or cafés.

Where do you work when you work remotely?,Percentage of graduates when working hybrid or remotely
Home office or spare room,48
Living room,36
Dining room,13
Local co-working space,5
Outbuilding or shed,2

Job level significantly influenced people’s preferred work locations. While entry-level graduates often worked from their bedrooms (54%), this trend was less common among intermediate or experienced employees (31%), as well as those in management positions (28%).

Only 17% of those in executive or senior management roles worked in their bedroom. Instead, they were more inclined to work in a home office or spare room (57%) compared to entry-level graduates (36%). Similarly, individuals in intermediate (52%) and management (49%) roles also favoured working in a home office or spare room.

Among those who graduated in 2018 or earlier, 25% worked in their bedroom, 33% in their living room, and 51% in a home office or spare room. In contrast, 54% of 2023 graduates worked in their bedroom, 45% in the living room, and 43% in a home office or spare room.

The cost of living crisis and rising rent prices can make it challenging for young people to afford their own place. As a result, they may live with their parents or in shared accommodation, which often lacks the luxury of a dedicated home office or spare room.

However, there are concerns that bedrooms and living rooms may lack a proper ergonomic setup. According to the Royal Society for Public Health, nearly half of individuals working from a sofa or bedroom experienced musculoskeletal issues.2 Employers might want to consider providing an allowance to help employees purchase ergonomic office equipment for remote work.

The full report from the Prospects Early Careers Survey will be published in May


  1. Two-thirds of CEOs think staff will return to office five days a week, survey finds, survey finds, The Guardian, 2023.
  2. Survey reveals the mental and physical health impacts of home working during Covid-19, The Royal Society for Public Health, 2022.

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