Three years ago, when I signed up for a sandwich course, I never once considered doing a virtual placement. I didn’t even know it was an option until I heard about it in a seminar organised by my Placement Coordinators in my second year. They had invited a former placement student to talk about their virtual experience and at that time I was very surprised of them being able to cope with little interaction with their colleagues from work.
Needless to say, a few months later, at the start of the pandemic and first lockdown, virtual placement options were the most common, as many companies had temporarily closed their offices and had staff working from home.
Against this background story, today I feel very lucky to be undertaking a hybrid Placement, I strongly believe it has enabled me to develop both soft and hard skills that will surely give me a boost when applying for graduate opportunities in the future.
My placement experience is a mix of working from home and being in the office: at the start of my placement in September, I was working from home but with the easing of lockdown I was working on campus a few days a week, from October until the beginning of December. At the time the Careers and Placement centre was quiet, as not many students were present on campus. Unlike the usual hustle-bustle and amid the quiet I was able to finally meet a few colleagues in person. Before the second lockdown, all members of staff were asked to work from home again and albeit it may seem dreadful at first, there are also many benefits.
The most significant advantage I found when working at home is flexibility.
First and foremost, I don’t have to commute to work, which allows me extra time to sleep in before starting my day. I also don’t have a separate office in my home and my working station is conveniently a step away from my bed, this allows me to snooze my alarm until 8 in the morning before sliding into my desk 20 minutes after whilst sipping on a cup of tea.
I can’t count the number of times I have had a colleague excuse themselves during a meeting or catch up to collect their parcel at the door. Also, I get to joke with my team about the variety of jumpers and hoodies I have, as comfort is key in working from home.
As much as I love working from home, there are also a few drawbacks that make it challenging, the first being the limit in physical contact with colleagues.
I also noticed the tempo at which you work at home can be slower compared to working in the office: when interacting with a colleague you can’t see. I always factor in that I may be receiving a response a couple of days later. This can be frustrating at times but considering other’s availability has helped me when organising my workload.
Have you ever found yourself thinking about your assessment or exam in the most unusual moments? Well, another disadvantage I have found is I constantly think about work, more so as I share my workstation with my personal space. I struggle with feeling completely relaxed in the latter and the long run this can affect my motivation and ultimately my work performance. I have adopted a few tricks to help me minimise the conflicting feelings: I was able to make adjustments to my space and moved my working station to the opposite side of my bed, to visually separate my space according to their functionality.
Furthermore, I only keep work-related materials on my desk to reduce my distraction, and when music is not enough and I need an extra kick to being productive, I shed my comfy hoodies and I dress like I am in the office regardless of having a meeting that day, the last one has proved being quite effective time and time again, I would recommend trying. Lastly, I try to take breaks from time to time, to stretch and reduce screen fatigue, and if the weather is nice, I try having a walk outside to change from the otherwise monotonous scenery.
Despite the challenges of working from home, I must admit that my hybrid experience has been positive and I can’t but give some credit to my colleagues who have been helpful both at the start of my Placement and are always ready to assist whenever they can. The pandemic may have caused most of us to change our working pattern, but I feel blessed to have a hybrid placement experience, as it has taught me to be adaptable and think creatively.
Written by Ayoade Folorunso
Image by Mikey Harris on Unsplash