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Survey says: College grads prioritizing flexible work options over salary

Typing computer laptop working home job
Posted at 10:19 AM, May 11, 2022

When you think about the people graduating from college this month, you may think because of the growing cost of living, salary and sign-on bonuses could be their top priorities.

It turns out the top priority for their first job is actually remote or flexible work.

A survey by consulting firm Robert Half found that 51% of new college graduates are making flexible work environment their No. 1 priority, with 26% prioritizing salary or sign-on bonuses.

“They've really adapted to the remote work setting in their college in internship experiences,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. "So it can carry forward to the remote setting as long as the onboarding process with the company is intensive enough and extensive enough."

McDonald has seen companies bring new hires into the office for a few weeks, then switched to remote with an ongoing monthly meeting.

“Check-in culturally, there has to be a match on the front end by the job seeker of the new employee as well as the employer and it's incumbent upon the employer to try and help through the onboarding process and on an ongoing basis,” McDonald said. “To make sure culture is instilled during this remote work environment to treat the office as a tool to treat technology as a place.

“Because when we do that and we use all of these things as tools in order to be clear about what are our shared values and what our shared norms. That's how you develop, create and build the culture that you want.”

Tsedal Neeley with Harvard's Business School has been studying remote work for years. She sees office dynamics changing long term with some new graduates potentially never working in an office people's expectations and interactions or the power and the politics that you would imagine.

“All the things that happen in water cooler conversations, the wink and the nod, all of those things play out very differently in kind of a remote environment,” she said.

She said there is no clear evidence that people who are fully remote will have less successful careers.

That's thanks in part to the level of empathy for managers or remote work, being the highest that she's seen in years.