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The Hybrid 4-Day Work Week: What New Grads Want From Employers

Here's what the new generation of workers cares about and why companies should start paying attention.

In a survey of 500 soon-to-be college grads in the US, three in four students are planning to pursue a side hustle on top of their full-time job.

57% said they would search for a new job if their employer forced a return-to-office.

76% believe that four-day work weeks should be the new standard.

There's a common misconception about young workers. Recent college grads are taking flak from older generations for being coddled, headstrong, and unwilling to make sacrifices for their work.

If this critique sounds familiar—and possibly mistaken—it’s because we heard the same complaints two decades ago against Gen X “slackers” and a decade ago against Millennials, the generation that literally invented “hustle culture.”

We wanted to find out what was really going on, so we partnered with Pollfish to survey 500 students about to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree and begin their professional lives. We targeted a comprehensive snapshot of college students, including adult learners who are often overlooked but make up a significant portion of the student population—the average age of respondents was 26.4 years old.

We sought to understand what they expect from their future employers, what matters to them when deciding on jobs, and how they rank their priorities—information that will be incredibly important for companies attempting to attract young talent.

While recent Big Tech layoffs have created a sense of betrayal amongst knowledge workers, the job market itself remains tight. US employers added 236,000 nonfarm jobs in March—just below expectations—and the unemployment rate declined by 0.1% to 3.5%, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics, despite 480,000 entering the labor force. In other words, it's still a great time to find a job, despite the counter-narrative created by high-profile layoffs. As Indeed Hiring Lab Head Nick Bunker Told Yahoo Finance: “We’re still in a very hot, very strong labor market.”

So, what does this new generation of workers care about, and where should companies start paying attention? Let’s dive in:

Key findings: As they enter the workforce, soon-to-be-grads prioritize flexibility, work-life balance, and value-driven work

In a survey of 500 soon-to-be college graduates across the US:

Top factors & concerns

  • 33% rated the ability to work remote as the most important factor in their job search—more than any other factor including salary (21%)
  • 57% prefer a flexible hybrid work model, versus just 7% who are looking for all-remote
  • 57% said they would search for a new job if their employer issued a return-to-office mandate
  • 76% believe that four-day work weeks should be the standard, and new grads ranked work-life balance as their top concern heading into the job market.
  • 65% would choose a job with slightly lower pay if it meant working at a company whose mission aligns with their personal values.

Freelancing and side hustles

  • 75% are planning to pursue a side hustle on top of their full-time job.
  • 61% want to turn their side hustle into their full-time job
  • 68% are considering starting their careers by freelancing instead of committing to one full-time employer.

The most important factor when picking a job? The option to work remote–but not all the time

Soon-to-be college grads said having the option to work remote was the most important factor in their job search—33% said it was their top concern, above “alignment with personal values and interests” (25%) and salary (21%).

But they prefer a hybrid model over 100% remote; 57% reported a hybrid (2-3 days mandated in office) or flexible-hybrid schedule (option to work in-office or in person) as their preferred work environment. By comparison, just 7% rated fully remote as their top choice.

New grads aren’t strangers to remote work—76% reported either interning or working remotely in the past.

Most college grads plan to pursue a side hustle that will turn into a full-time job

If millennials created hustle culture a decade ago, this class of college grads may be launching side-hustle culture, as 75% of respondents plan to pursue a side hustle alongside their full-time job.

Side hustles provide an opportunity to pursue passions and develop new skills, but for many, the goal extends further. Sixty-one percent hope to become entrepreneurs and eventually turn their side hustle into the main hustle—aka their primary source of income.

Of those who plan to pursue a side hustle, 20% said they wanted more control and autonomy than a full-time job can offer, and 19% said they’re worried about making enough money from one entry-level job.

Overall, although 83% of new college grads already have jobs lined up after graduation, 68% are still thinking of freelancing. For many soon-to-be-grads, flexibility doesn’t just mean flexible hours or working from home, it means a flexible career path.

Gen Z employees won’t hesitate to leave a company if they don’t see a future with them.

Unsatisfied with the traditional career route, the new generation of workers is more interested in work that allows them to bounce between departments, companies, or even industries at their will. Seeing their first job as a stepping stone, Zoomers are likely to change jobs as many as ten times before the age of 34.

As reported by FlexJobs, “Gen Z employees won’t hesitate to leave a company if they don’t see a future with them, leading to higher turnover rates. And, over time, it may be harder to attract new employees if companies can’t offer Gen Z applicants meaningful career opportunities.”

They want work-life balance—and a 4-day work week

According to the findings of a recent poll by Gartner, almost two-thirds of employees stated that the pandemic had made them question the role work should play in their lives. Priorities have shifted, and more than one out of every five students surveyed expressed work-life balance as their top concern. And with 76% of soon-to-be-grads endorsing a four-day work week, we might be seeing a future where a more balanced work-life becomes the norm.

New York Times contributing editor Jessica Bennett argues that we’re experiencing “a labor revolt in real-time,” in which the concept of “hardcore work,” endorsed by Elon Musk-types, is not just a bygone era of management but a bygone way of living.

Most college grads would choose values-driven work over higher pay

One quarter of soon-to-be-grads ranked “working at a company that aligns with my values” as the highest priority in their job search, second only to remote work. Sixty-five percent stated they would likely choose a job with lower pay if it meant working at a company whose mission aligns with their personal values and interests. And 70% would take a pay cut if it meant working with teammates they love.

Gen Z won't put up with corporate BS, and businesses will need to bring more to the table than just a competitive salary. They’ll also need a compelling mission and a double scoop of trust and authenticity to keep the next generation of workers engaged.

Amidst the changing work landscape and repeated tech layoffs, trust has emerged as a high-value currency. With only one in five respondents citing salary as the most important factor in their job search, the new workforce appears not to be as concerned with financial gains as those that came before them. Instead, they prioritize work-life balance, meaningful work, and authentic relationships overall.

College grads search for jobs on social media—as well as job search platforms

Most companies would never think to use TikTok and Instagram to advertise their jobs, but those platforms are where most college grads are searching. Fifty eight percent are using TikTok in their job search, while 66% are using Instagram.

While these channels still rank below tried and true options such as Google (81%), job search platforms like LinkedIn (74%), and gig platforms like Monster (80%), it still reveals a hidden channel that most companies may not think of.

Embracing flexibility, fostering connections, and aligning values will be crucial for companies looking to resonate with Gen Z

If you’ve spent even ten minutes on social media, you’ll know that young people have meme-ified almost every aspect of their life, including their anti-work sentiments. From viral TikToks proclaiming “Rich housewife is the goal” to clever-yet-controversial remarks in the subreddit r/antiwork like “Unemployment for all, not just the rich”.

These pseudo-jokes represent an increasingly common sentiment: No one wants to work for a job where they are underpaid, under-valued, and overworked—especially not emerging college grads.

Soon-to-be-grads have already dealt with a triad of challenges: Joining the workforce is hard enough, but add to that a tough economy and a worldwide pandemic. Half of Gen Z had a household member who was affected by job loss during the pandemic and countless stories circling of graduates who turned down five or more offers before accepting a job that was subsequently canceled, the growing interest in freelancing post-graduation correlates with a need for more flexibility and control over their careers—as well as a way to protect against their financial concerns by hedging their bets amongst multiple employers.

New grads want respect, meaning, a feeling of fulfillment, and the security that can come from not being tied to just one employer.

The pandemic was a catalyst that elevated individual purpose. Modern workers want to join an organization that sees them as a person, not just an employee. Faced with the reality that almost half of Gen Z and millennials would rather be unemployed than unhappy, employers might be in the midst of their greatest pressure yet—losing out on emerging talent to jobs that better fit their appetites.

What the next generation wants from work can be summed up by the same things they want for their futures: respect, meaning, a feeling of fulfillment, and the security that can come from not being tied to just one employer.


Between March 23rd and 24th of 2023, we partnered with Pollfish to survey 500 students in the US who are set to complete their Bachelor's Degree in May. Our goal was to understand their expectations from future employers, their priorities when deciding on jobs, and their overall approach to work. The survey polled a diverse group of college students, including adult learners, with an average age of 26.4 years. The majority (57%) of students we polled were under thirty-four years old, while 42% were older than thirty-five.

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