Back to Illuminate Back
The community for today’s
early talent leaders
Back to Illuminate
5 minutes

A generation of radical change: The pandemic and Gen-Z

23 November, 2021

The pandemic has changed the very meaning of the word normal across industries and organisations globally. Graduating during a pandemic and beginning their careers in an economy full of uncertainty has been the reality for students across the UK.

Although reactive, this shift to remote working and hybrid models has been beneficial to some members of Gen-Z. For underrepresented groups, the inequalities faced in comparison to their peers only grew. We turned to our member network, consisting of half a million students and recent graduates, to ask their thoughts on remote working and understand the opportunities and challenges this may bring. 

Remote working is opening opportunities for early talent 

Remote working has enabled graduates to accept employment opportunities in areas they were perhaps unable to access or afford in the past. Indeed, almost a third of young people have accepted jobs they couldn’t before, because of a long commute to the office, and almost a quarter (24%) of graduates said the main benefit of working remotely is flexibility in where they live.

Pic 1

Our research shows the opportunity for universities and government to capitalise on remote working as a way to level up the UK and improve social mobility for young people. For example, 26% of graduates in the North-West were able to accept a job based in a different city from where they live because of remote working, while 31% of those in the Midlands were able to do the same. 

Whilst this shows the start of a positive trend, there is still more to be done to tackle the brain-drain from UK regions into London. The research from Bright Network’s 500,000+ members has shown an ongoing regional divide, with 63% of students saying they would ideally like to work in London, and nearly 40% of students who studied in Northern Universities moving to London after their studies.

The other side of the coin 

Whilst remote working and higher education have the potential to do a great deal for levelling up - particularly after COVID-19 with 77% of graduates saying the pandemic has widened inequalities - this must come with a balance for graduates. 

Pic 2

Our research shows that face-to-face time in offices will still be an important part of a graduate’s career development: Almost half (49%) of young people questioned in our study fear that continued remote working will put them at a disadvantage in their careers; previous research indicates that 40% of graduates would prefer a mix of office and remote working, with only 6% of graduates wanting to work 100% remotely.

Steps for success 

James Uffindell, founder of Bright Network, said: “Graduate and post-university jobs are an important first step of a person’s career path. Ensuring everyone has equal opportunity to get the best graduate roles, regardless of where they live or their financial background, is crucial.”

“This shift has the potential to positively impact the country’s productivity as a whole, supporting the levelling-up agenda, and ensuring economic potential is evenly distributed around the country. Universities, government and Bright Network need to collaborate now more than ever to ensure that university graduates’ prospects aren’t hindered.”

In order to succeed, the government and universities must consider the potential of what remote working can do for graduate employment and social mobility. The Bright Network Manifesto sets out a bold vision for the UK to support graduates from all backgrounds in gaining the tools to fulfil their potential and ensuring employers can access the very best talent as the UK emerges from the pandemic.

Download our manifesto: